What causes childhood food allergies?

Posted 11.12.13 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

When it comes to food allergies, we all want to know what causes them. There is no single answer, and many factors can contribute to a child developing food allergies. Also, no one factor is guaranteed to cause an allergy. We recently came across a scientific journal article, in Pediatric Annals, that lays out the factors that can contribute to allergies. The article is Epidemiology of Childhood Food Allergy. No surprise: the article (written by scientists, for doctors) is fairly technical, but Neocate is here to help decipher it!

What the researchers looked at         

Ashley A. Dyer, MPH was the lead author, along with a colleague from the Center for Healthcare Studies at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL, Dr. Ruchi Gupta. The two briefly reviewed factors that can contribute to food allergy as well as symptoms, locations where food allergies are more prevalent, development of tolerance, the impacts food allergies can have, and where future research is focused.

What the publication discussed

While there was no “new” news in this article, it was a good summary of the current knowledge that researchers and scientists in the medical community are aware of. Here are the key points:

- Childhood food allergies are becoming more prevalent (more children are being diagnosed – also by Dr. Gupta)

- Of the top 8 allergens in the US, there seems to be a link between when they are usually introduced to a child’s diet and when allergy to that food is recognized (e.g. milk allergy tend to be diagnosed at younger ages than shellfish allergy)

- Food allergies may be more prevalent among certain minority groups (again, also by Dr. Gupta)

- Where children live can affect development of food allergies (they’re more common in the US and urban areas)

Looking for more factors? Risk for food allergies can also be inherited from parents! Another possible factor that researchers are looking into is whether living higher North, with less sun exposure, could correspond with food allergies (possibly because of lower vitamin D levels).

We’ll keep an eye out for more interesting food allergy-related research to let you know about!

- Rob


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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.