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A new study found that Blacks and Hispanics were more likely to have food allergies than Whites. Additionally, emergency department visits due to severe food allergies were more prevalent among people from lower socioeconomic status.

Food allergies affect about 8% of children and 11% of U.S. adults in the United States. Food allergies cause significant distress, lower quality of life, and increase the risk of allergic rhinitis, asthma, and other atopic conditions. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) results show that food allergies are rising in the United States. Previous studies showed that Black children and adults were more likely to experience food allergies and were more likely to be allergic to peanuts, cow’s milk, egg whites, and shrimp. 

Despite increasing evidence regarding disparities in food allergies, no extensive studies exist on the subject. Hence, this new study published in JAMA Network Open, 2023, aimed to find racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in food allergies in the United States.

Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in Food Allergies Exist – The Study Confirms

Researchers surveyed 51,819 households, compromising 78,851 individuals. Out of these individuals, 40,443 were adults and 38,408 children. This study included 3.7% Asians, 12% Blacks, 17.4% Hispanics, 62.2% Whites, and 4.7% people of mixed or other races. Thus, the sample was representative of the general U.S. population.

The study found that non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics were most likely to experience food allergies (10.6%), in comparison to 9.5% of Whites and 10.5% of Asians. Non-Hispanic Blacks were most likely to report allergies to multiple foods (50.6%). Asian and non-Hispanic Whites had the lowest rates of severe food allergies, at 46.9% and 47.8%, respectively. 

The study found that Hispanics and Blacks had higher rates of emergency department visits, at 15.5% and 13.5%, respectively. Additionally, those with household incomes below $25,000 were more likely to have emergency department visits (16.2% in the last year). Despite this factor, they were less likely to be prescribed epinephrine. The study found that epinephrine was more commonly prescribed to those with private insurance or from higher socioeconomic status.

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The Bottom line

This is among the few studies to estimate the prevalence of food allergies in various racial groups in the United States and consider socioeconomic status. The study demonstrated the prevalence of health disparities, with the burden of food allergies occurring disproportionately among Blacks and Hispanics. It also found that Blacks are more likely to have allergies to multiple foods and that Hispanics and Blacks are more likely to visit the emergency department. Despite the greater risk of severe allergies in certain population groups, these groups were less likely to be prescribed epinephrine, which further increased the risk of adverse outcomes.

Source:

Jiang, J., Warren, C., Brewer, A., Soffer, G., & Gupta, R. S. (2023). Racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic differences in food allergies in the US. JAMA Network Open, 6(6), e2318162. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.18162