Children living in built-up cities are nearly twice as likely to develop food allergies than those living in more rural areas according to a new US study.

Based on results covering nearly 40,000 children across more than 40 American States, ten per cent of those born in densely populated areas have a food allergy, in comparison to just six per cent of those born in areas with a 'low' population.

Almost half of food-allergic children in the study had already experienced a severe, life-threatening reaction to food, making it all the more important for researchers to identify areas of higher risk according to study lead Ruchi Guptor from Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.

"We have found for the first time that higher population density corresponds with a greater likelihood of food allergies in children," said Assistant Professor Guptor.

"This shows that environment has an impact on developing food allergies. The big question is - what in the environment is triggering them? A better understanding of environmental factors will help us with prevention efforts."

Guptor's team have suggested that heigtened exposure to pollutants in built-up areas compared with greater prevalance of bacteria in countryside locations is at the heart of the imbalance.

Past research has shown an increased prevalence of asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis in urban areas versus rural ones and this study shows that adverse reactions to peanuts and shellfish are particular high in city settings.

Mary Jane Marchisotto, executive director of the Food Allergy Initiative, now wants to see the government invest more in tackling food allergies with one in every 14 children suffering from an allergy according to NHS figures.

"This latest research on food allergy prevalence is providing critical information to help us address the growing public health issue of food allergies," she said. "We are committed to finding a cure for food allergies and why certain people have food allergies but others do not."

Posted 11/06/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com