A new study suggests that people of color and members of lower-income households are more likely to have food allergies than white people and people with higher salaries.
The study, titled “Racial, Ethnic, and Socioeconomic Differences in Food Allergies in the US,” was published in the JAMA Network Open
on June 14. The authors of the study analyzed the results of a nationally representative survey that queried 78,851 individuals from 51,819 U.S. households between October 2015 and September 2016.
Main findings: The survey’s Asian, Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black participants reported having the highest prevalence of food allergies across all age groups, with rates of 10.5%. 10.6% and 10.6%, respectively.
In terms of severity, Asian and white individuals exhibited the lowest rates of food allergy reactions. Meanwhile, Black individuals with food allergies were found to be most likely to experience reactions to multiple foods, with a rate of 50.6%.
The study also indicates a correlation between income levels and the number of reported food allergies. The researchers found that those who earn over $150,000 per year had the lowest prevalence of food allergies at 8.3%.
The study further highlights differences in the types of food allergies
reported by different racial and ethnic groups.
Asian adults were most likely to report peanut (2.9%) and shellfish allergies (3.8%), while Black adults had the highest prevalence of tree nut allergies (1.6%). Hispanic adults were most likely to report egg (1.2%) and finfish allergies (1.5%).
Reversing the trend:
Lead author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, research director of the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, emphasized the need
for better awareness of food allergies among racial and ethnic communities, as well as improved access to diagnosis and treatments.
We now know that racial and ethnic minorities as well as underserved populations often do not get to an allergist for diagnosis. 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.
As the study suggests that environmental factors may be contributing to the increasing prevalence of allergic conditions, the researchers have urged further studies to develop interventions and reverse the rising trend.