Exploring the links between race and food allergy

Previous research in the US has shown important differences in the food allergy prevalence and sensitivity among children of different races. Further studies have now looked at whether the specific foods children are allergic to is linked to racial background.

Results showed African American children have significantly higher rates of shellfish and finfish allergy than white children. The study also showed that children with a shellfish allergy were more likely to have asthma, while other food allergens were not associated with asthma diagnosis. The association between shellfish allergy and asthma was independent to racial background.

Because of the higher prevalence of asthma in African American children with food allergies, the researchers estimate these children are at a two- to threefold risk of fatal anaphylaxis compared to white children.

These studies are part of a large, multicentre national trial, called Food Allergy Management and Outcomes Related to White and African American Racial Differences (FORWARD), which aims to explore potential racial differences and disparities in food allergy outcomes including healthcare utilization, allergic reaction manifestation, management practices, and psycho-social outcomes.

The FORWARD trial is still enrolling African American and white children aged 0 to 12 years diagnosed with food allergy and followed by allergy/immunology clinics at four urban tertiary centers in the United States. The latest studies were based on the findings from a cohort of 664 children, 36 per cent of whom are African American.

Reference: Mahdavinia et al. 2021. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaip.2020.12.026.

Additional reporting: Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago