Food Allergies Affect People of Color More than White People

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June 15, 2023 -- A new study found that people of color have more food allergies than white people and that lower-income people are also more affected by food allergies.

In general, food allergies affect 11% of adults and 8% of children, according to the study published in JAMA Network Open.

Non-Hispanic white people across all ages had the lowest rate of food allergies at 9.5%, compared with people who are Asian, 10.5%; Hispanic, 10.6%; and non-Hispanic Blacks, 10.6%.

The cause is probably not genetics, said Mahboobeh Mahdavinia, MD, with RUSH Medical College in Chicago, on CNN.

“The majority of this is likely driven by the environment and the social economy factors that impact environments that people are born into and live in as adults,” said Mahdavinia, who was not involved in the study.

“Exposure to certain microbes in the environment may affect the gut microbiome, the collection of bacteria that live in a person’s gastrointestinal tract,and that could leave someone susceptible to developing food allergies, Mahdavinia said. 

Food allergies can also be caused by pollution. “Research shows that people of color tend to live in more polluted neighborhoods, regardless of income,” CNN reported. 

Food allergies were lowest in households earning more than $150,000, at 8.3%, the study said.

People with food allergies might face an allergy-related economic burden, poorer health, and an increased risk of conditions such as eczema and asthma, the study’s authors wrote.

Researchers surveyed almost 52,000 households between October 9, 2015, and September 18, 2016.