While food allergies have not historically been top of mind for racial and ethnic minorities, new research shows that Hispanic, Black and Asian communities all face a higher prevalence of these issues.
Money also mattered: In households where incomes were higher, at more than $150,000 a year, food allergies were less prevalent.
“Food allergies are not frequently talked about impacting racial and ethnic communities,” said study co-author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, director of the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research and a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “It’s not on the radar. But we now know it does impact them more, and it’s important to improve awareness.”
“It is also critical to improve access to diagnosis and treatments for food allergy,” Gupta said in a university news release. “It is an exciting time with new treatments, and it’s essential to make sure they reach racial and ethnic minorities who have higher rates of food allergy.”
For the study, the researchers administered a survey online and via telephone to a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population, including more than 50,000 households with responses for nearly 80,000 individuals. The survey was given from October 2015 to September 2016.
Food allergy affects 11% of adults and 8% of children in the United States. The study found that prevalence of food allergy was highest among Hispanic and Black people, at 10.6% each, and Asian people at 10.5%. Only 9.5% of white people had a food allergy.
Black individuals with food allergy were most likely to report allergy to multiple foods, at about 50.6%, while Asian and white individuals had the lowest rates of severe food allergy reactions.
The study was funded in part by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The findings were published June 14 in JAMA Open Network.
“We now know that racial and ethnic minorities, as well as underserved populations, often do not get to an allergist for diagnosis,” Gupta said. “They have the symptoms of food allergy, but the access to get to a specialist has been challenging, and the fact that there were no treatments led them to just try and avoid the food.”
Among the new treatments are oral, on the skin and under the tongue immunotherapy, all of which desensitize the immune system to the allergen. Biologics can block the allergic reaction cascade.
“It is an exciting time in food allergy, with new diagnostics, prevention and treatments,” Gupta said. “Our goal is to see these numbers start to come down in the next 30 to 40 years.”
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has more on food allergies.
SOURCE: Northwestern Medicine, news release, June 14, 2023
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