A McGill University research team has published an intriguing comment on the so-called “hygiene hypothesis” relating the prevalence of food allergies to family SES (Socio-economic Status).

Ben-Shoshan, M., et al., Demographic Predictors of Peanut, Tree Nut, Fish, Shellfish, and Sesame Allergy in Canada, Journal of Allergy, Vol. 2012, Article ID 858306, doi:10.1155/2012/858306.

Copyright © 2012 M. Ben-Shoshan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. This article is accessible on the McGill University website:

http://www.medicine.mcgill.ca/epidemiology/Joseph/publications/Medical/benshoshan2012.pdf - Dec. 3, 2011

ABSTRACT:  Studies suggest that the rising prevalence of food allergy during recent decades may have stabilized. Although genetics undoubtedly contribute to the emergence of food allergy, it is likely that other factors play a crucial role in mediating such short-term changes. Objective. To identify potential demographic predictors of food allergies. Methods. We performed a cross-Canada, random telephone survey. Criteria for food allergy were self-report of convincing symptoms and/or physician diagnosis of allergy. Multivariate logistic regressions were used to assess potential determinants. Results. Of 10,596 households surveyed in 2008/2009, 3666 responded, representing 9667 individuals. Peanut, tree nut, and sesame allergy were more common in children (odds ratio (OR) 2.24 (95% CI, 1.40, 3.59), 1.73 (95% CI, 1.11, 2.68), and 5.63 (95% CI, 1.39, 22.87), resp.) while fish and shellfish allergy were less common in children (OR 0.17 (95% CI, 0.04, 0.72) and 0.29 (95% CI, 0.14, 0.61)). Tree nut and shellfish allergy were less common in males (OR 0.55 (95% CI, 0.36, 0.83) and 0.63 (95% CI, 0.43, 0.91)). Shellfish allergy was more common in urban settings (OR 1.55 (95% CI, 1.04, 2.31)). There was a trend for most food allergies to be more prevalent in the more educated (tree nut OR 1.90 (95% CI, 1.18, 3.04)) and less prevalent in immigrants (shellfish OR 0.49 (95% CI, 0.26, 0.95)), but wide CIs preclude definitive conclusions for most foods. Conclusions. Our results reveal that in addition to age and sex, place of residence, socioeconomic status, and birth place may influence the development of food allergy.

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