Funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences), researchers at Johns Hopkins University have completed the largest study ever conducted on the prevalence of food allergies in the US population.

Because of copyright restrictions, we cannot provide the text of the article which is published in the October issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  We are able to provide an abstract and we also attach the NIEHS Press Release below.

National prevalence and risk factors for food allergy and relationship to asthma: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006, Liu, et al., Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol. 126, no. 4, p. 798, October 2010

Abstract: The national prevalence and patterns of food allergy (FA) in the United States are not well understood.

Objective: We developed nationally representative estimates of the prevalence of and demographic risk factors for FA and investigated associations of FA with asthma, hay fever, and eczema.

Methods: A total of 8203 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006 had food-specific serum IgE measured to peanut, cow’s milk, egg white, and shrimp. Food-specific IgE and age-based criteria were used to define likely FA (LFA), possible FA, and unlikely FA and to develop estimates of clinical FA. Self-reported data were used to evaluate demographic risk factors and associations with asthma and related conditions.

Results: In the United States, the estimated prevalence of clinical FA was 2.5% (peanut, 1.3%; milk, 0.4%; egg, 0.2%; shrimp, 1.0%; not mutually exclusive). Risk of possible FA/LFA was increased in non-Hispanic blacks (odds ratio, 3.06; 95% CI, 2.14-4.36), males (1.87; 1.32-2.66), and children (2.04; 1.42-2.93).

Study participants with doctor-diagnosed asthma (vs no asthma) exhibited increased risk of all measures of food sensitization. Moreover, in those with LFA, the adjusted odds ratio for current asthma (3.8; 1.5-10.7) and an emergency department visit for asthma in the past year (6.9; 2.4-19.7) were both notably increased.

Conclusion: Population-based serologic data on 4 foods indicate an estimated 2.5% of the US population has FA, and increased risk was found for black subjects, male subjects, and children. In addition, FA could be an under-recognized risk factor for problematic asthma. (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010;126:798-806.)