New research suggests that sensitivity to common food allergens, such as dairy and peanuts, could be a significant and previously overlooked cause of heart disease. This elevated risk applies even to people without symptomatic food allergies.
A study led by University of Virginia Health researchers examined thousands of adults over time and discovered that those who produced antibodies in response to milk and other foods were at an increased risk of cardiovascular-related death. This held true even after accounting for traditional heart disease risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The study’s findings suggest that the production of IgE antibodies to common foods, even in the absence of obvious food allergies, may contribute to heart disease development. Further research is needed to confirm this link, understand the mechanisms and explore potential interventions.
The researchers had previously noted a link between heart disease and the alpha-gal red meat allergen. Having explored the links between heart disease and food allergies more broadly, the current research suggests the association is not only limited to alpha-gal.
This research raises the possibility that blood tests could one day provide personalized dietary recommendations to help reduce heart disease risk. However, more studies are necessary before such recommendations can be made.
See the full media release about these findings on the UVA website.
Reference: Keet, et al. 2023. IgE to common food allergens is associated with cardiovascular mortality in the National Health and Examination Survey and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2023.09.038.