Big Cities Bring On Food Allergies
Population density may be a key factor in the rates of food allergies among kids. Children growing up in cities have a much higher rate of food allergies than those living in rural areas.
In particular, city kids are more than twice as likely to have peanut and shellfish allergies.
The new research will help scientists get a better understanding of how the environment might play a role in the development and prevalence of allergies.
"We have found for the first time that higher population density corresponds with a greater likelihood of food allergies in children," said lead author Ruchi Gupta, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago."This shows that environment has an impact on developing food allergies. Similar trends have been seen for related conditions like asthma. The big question is -- what in the environment is triggering them? A better understanding of environmental factors will help us with prevention efforts."
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The study hypothesized that exposure to certain microbes from rural life may help defend against becoming hypersensitive to an allergen. Also, the amount of pollution and variety of pollutants in a big city might trigger the development of these allergies.
It is estimated that one out of every 13 children has a potentially life-threatening food allergy.
According to a March 2011 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, food allergic reaction sends an American to the emergency room every three minutes.
"Dr. Gupta's ongoing research on food allergy prevalence among children in the U.S. is providing critical information to help us address the growing public health issue of food allergies," said Mary Jane Marchisotto, executive director of the Food Allergy Initiative. "We are committed to finding a cure for food allergies and this study provides additional insight about why certain people have food allergies and others do not."