Pediatricians at Northwestern University have shed new light on why some children develop sensitivities to foods such as eggs, peanuts and milk. Their reason? Race and ancestry.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, used a multi-ethnic database of 1,104 children to measure antibodies to egg white, cow's milk, peanut, soy, shrimp, walnut, wheat and cod.
The overall findings reveal that black children are twice as likely to have an immune response to certain foods, especially peanuts, eggs and milk. About 38 percent of black children in the study had food sensitives compared to 22 percent for the white children who participated.
To determine race, the researchers used the children's mothers' self-report of race as well as the distribution of 150 genetic markers in the children's blood, which track ancestry.
"When the researchers looked at the genetic markers for ancestry, they found that for every 10% increment in African ancestry, children were 7% more likely to have antibodies to the allergy-causing foods than white children, Time magazine reports. "And the association was strongest for peanuts; more children with African ancestry showed antibody levels that would correlate to a possible allergic reaction if they were to eat peanuts," they say.
While these findings support previous evidence that Asian and black children are more likely to have food allergies than white children and that black male children in particular face the highest risk for food allergies, it's important to note that this study looked at food sensitization, which, experts say, doesn't necessarily pose any danger on its own. Kids who are sensitized to certain foods, however, are more likely to develop full-blown allergies to them in the future.