NEW YORK - In a new study, black kids were twice as likely as white kids to have an immune response to foods such as peanuts, milk, and eggs, and almost four times as likely to have a "sensitization" to three or more foods.
The research suggests that race and ancestry may play an important role in food allergies.
Dr. Rajesh Kumar, a pediatrician at Northwestern University Medical School, and his team report in the journal Pediatrics that black children are more than twice as likely as white children to have sensitivities to eight foods that commonly cause allergic reactions, and that they are especially vulnerable to peanut allergies.
"If you look at populations who describe themselves as one race like African American or Hispanic, they may have ancestors from different continental groups," says Kumar. "So the description loses precision if you just use race. Whereas if you look at ancestry, you get a more precise proportion of what ancestors came from one continent compared to another."
The researchers found that children whose mothers reported them as being Black were nearly 2.5 times as likely as self-reported white youngsters to be sensitive to any of the eight foods tested, and they were also more likely to be sensitive to more of the foods than white children.
Kumar acknowledges that the findings probably won't translate into any useful guidelines for parents or pediatricians quite yet. But they serve as a good foundation for a better understanding of which factors related to race and ancestry might affect how we react to common allergens like those found in foods. "Once we identify the genes or environmental factors specifically responsible for the differences, then we will be in a better position to pinpoint individuals at risk," he says. "This opens the door to that work."