A new study shows that black children are twice as much likely to be sensitive to food allergies that can cause common reactions and vulnerable to peanuts.
To find out whether some ethnicities are more at risk than others, Rajesh Kumar’s team at the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago looked for a link between ethnicity and peanut sensitivity in over 1000 children.
In his report, Kumar said, 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.
The group screened their genomes for 150 known genetic markers of Asian, European and African ancestry. The team also looked for antibodies to peanuts in the children’s blood — high levels suggest the immune system has previously overreacted to peanuts.
“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.”
“For every 10 per cent increase in African ancestry… there was a 25 per cent increased risk of having peanut antibodies at levels associated with allergy,” says Kumar, regardless of whether the children were described as ethnically Hispanic or black.
Kumar stresses that his findings do not suggest that black children with more African ancestry are likely to develop food allergies, or even a peanut allergy. His study was only able to find links between levels of antibodies that generate a reaction.