Obese children and adolescents are 26 percent more likely to have some kind of allergy, especially to food, say U.S. researchers in a new report published on May 4, 2009 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
In this study, the researchers analyzed data on 4,000 children and young adults aged 2 to 19 that included information about allergies and asthma. They looked at a number of factors including total antibody levels to indoor, outdoor and food allergens, body weight, and responses to a questionnaire about diagnoses of hay fever, eczema, and allergies.
Children who had a body mass index that was in the top 95 percent for children of their age were considered obese. Compared with their slimmer peers, obese and overweight children had higher levels of antibodies for specific allergens in their blood.
"The rate of having a food allergy was 59 percent higher for obese children," says one doctor who was involved in this research.
It's not clear if obesity causes allergies, but these findings suggests controlling obesity in young people may be important for lowering rates of childhood allergies and asthma.
Both childhood obesity and childhood food allergies are on the rise in North America. Current estimates from Health Canada are that food allergies affect between six to twelve percent of young children while childhood obesity has doubled in the last two decades.
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