On Nov. 5-9, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) held its annual meeting in San Antonio. A number of food allergy related studies and abstracts were presented during this meeting attended by researchers and clinicians.
At the meeting, a team from Children’s Mercy Kansas City, a FARE Clinical Network center of excellence, reported that restrictive diets for children with food allergies may hinder growth and weight. The findings showed that parents of children with food allergies on restrictive diets may inadvertently create diets that eliminate too many calories, and their children may be underweight and have poorer growth than children without food allergies.
According to a news brief from the ACAAI, children with food allergy in the Missouri Department of Health Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Services program had significantly lower weight-for-age (49.5) height-for-age (45.2) and BMI-for-age (61.4) percentiles than children without food allergies. The study examined 1,714 children in the Missouri WIC program diagnosed with a food allergy by a physician. The authors expressed concern that children with food allergy are at risk for lower weight-for-age and height-for-age compared to their peers who don’t have food allergies. According the study, it is unclear whether the difference is due to dietary restrictions or increased energy burned trying to fight the allergic inflammation.
Further study by the authors is underway to understand whether the differences in growth observed are clinically significant and whether children with food allergies have an inflammatory process contributing to differences in growth.
Another study presented at the ACAAI meeting looked into the prevalence of sensitization and clinical food allergy among siblings of children with food allergies and found that just 13 percent of siblings had a true food allergy, while 53 percent had a food sensitivity.
“Too often, it’s assumed that if one child in a family has a food allergy, the other kids need to be tested for food allergies,” lead study author Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, said in a news release from ACAAI. “But testing for food allergies if a reaction hasn’t taken place can provide false-positives, as we saw in our research… Kids who have a food sensitivity shouldn’t be labeled as having a food allergy.”
The 1,120 children in the study all had a sibling with a documented food allergy. Thirteen percent of the siblings had positive skin or blood tests and clinical symptoms based on a stringent criteria and were determined to have a true food allergy; those with a positive skin or blood test without clinical symptoms were determined to have a food sensitivity.
These findings reinforce current guidelines that recommend not doing routine diagnostic food allergy tests for siblings of children with food allergies.