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June 16, 2023

People of color more likely to develop food allergies than white people, research shows

The study used a 2015-2016 survey that included over 50,000 households and 75,000 people

Adult Health Allergies
Food allergies race Cristiano Pinto/Unsplash

A recent survey published by JAMA Network Open showed people of color having more food allergies than their white counterparts.

A study published this week by JAMA Network Open revealed that people of color have more food allergies than their white counterparts.

The study used a October 2015-September 2016 survey that included over 50,000 households and 75,000 people. Data showed that 9.5% of white participants experienced a food allergy, compared to 10.6% of Black and Hispanic participants and 10.5% of Asian participants.

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Food allergies occur when the body's immune system reacts adversely to an otherwise harmless substance. Over 170 foods have been reported to cause allergies, with the nine major allergens being milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, crustacean shellfish and sesame.

The foods that caused allergies in those surveyed varied by age and race. Black kids and Hispanic adults were most allergic to eggs and fish, while Asian children and Black adults were most allergic to tree nuts. Asian adults had more shellfish and peanut allergies. The study suggested seafood allergies were most common among Asian and Hispanic people, while Black people were the most likely to develop an allergy to multiple foods.

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The study also found that participants from homes with an annual income of $50,000-$100,000 had more food allergies than those from homes with an income of $150,000 and higher. However, a 2013 National Center for Health Statistics data brief reported that, among kids surveyed, food and respiratory allergy prevalence increased with income level.

Dr. Mahboobeh Mahdavinia, an associate professor of medicine at RUSH Medical College in Chicago, told CNN that the study results are most likely driven by social economy factors that people are born in and live in as adults.

"It is important to consider socioeconomic status in conjunction with race and ethnicity in studying differences in food allergy outcomes," the study says. 

A 2021 study published by the National Library of Medicine showed Black and Hispanic children having the highest food allergy rates in the U.S. A 2021 NCHS report found that Black survey participants had higher food allergy rates than Hispanic and white participants.

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