There are more than six million American children living with food allergies, but there are important differences across ethnic and racial groups. For instance, research has found that Asian American children have a 40 percent greater chance of having a food allergy than the average. The study to find that result is, so far, the only such study to single out Asian American children and to find statistics specific to this population and food allergies.
That is set to change, however. Currently a survey is under way that targets Indian Americans and food allergies. The survey is ongoing, but early results have been reported and point out some interesting facts about this sub-population and how food allergies affect children within it. Because there are differences in how children in different groups experience food allergies, it is important that more research is done to better help all children.
The Importance of the Asian Indian Food Allergy Survey
Food allergies affect children of all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. To think otherwise is a not uncommon misconception. People often think that food allergies are a problem of the privileged elite, that only middle class and wealthy Caucasian families have the luxury of worrying about peanuts and soy and shellfish. The scary truth is that any child could have a food allergy, and the misinformation can lead to serious consequences.
By adding to the very limited research on food allergies in minority children, the Asian Indian Food Allergy Survey is helping to bring awareness to the issue. Parents of minority children must be aware of the fact that their children are as vulnerable to food allergies as any other. If they are not, the consequences could be tragic.
Results From the Survey
The survey is still ongoing, but researchers are already discovering new and important information from the results so far. The parents surveyed are those who already have had diagnoses for their children’s food allergies. Currently, parents of 114 children have participated, with the average age of diagnosis for allergies at just over 3 years. About two-thirds of the children are boys and most were diagnosed with a skin prick or blood test.
The results so far have found that 59 percent of these Indian American children have a tree nut allergy, representing the most common allergen in the population. This differs from the American population as a whole. Researchers have hypothesized that the presence of a lot of nuts in Indian cooking may account for this finding.
The researchers have also found that Indian American children have allergies to a number of foods outside of the top eight most common allergens in the U.S. Many of these unique allergens are common ingredients in Indian foods. They include capsicum, which is found in certain green peppers, chickpea flour and Indian lentils. Other allergens found in the survey include ginger, garlic, eggplant, coconut, corn, beef, avocado, rice, banana, melon, kiwi, tomato and jalapeno peppers. Surprising among these results is the great variety of allergens with a relatively small sample size. As compared to food allergies in the general U.S. population, this survey shows many more fruit and vegetable allergies and relatively few fish or shellfish allergies.
Simply knowing more about food allergies in minority populations is important. It helps spur research into treating allergies and helps increase awareness so that more adverse reactions can be prevented. The current survey isn’t just helpful for Indian Americans, though. An interesting finding is that the increase in number of possible allergens seems to reflect a more diverse diet. As our diets become more varied, doctors and researchers expect that we will see more types of food allergies. In the current study, allergies to ginger and jalapeno seemed to be completely new and unique, for example.
The survey will continue and researchers hope to collect much more useful information about allergies in special populations. More research of this kind is needed to help all Americans, but especially to draw public attention and research attention to allergies in minority children.