Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Allergy Unit

Student research


Food allergy: Influences of Heredity, Environment and a Maternal Dietary Modification Program on Children’s Food Allergy

by
Tomoko Yokoyama
Master of Science (Nutrition and Dietetics), University of Wollongong
Supervisors: Anne Swain, Velencia Soutter, Robert Loblay
October 2005

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Abstract

During the last quarter century, the prevalence of allergic disorders has increased considerably, and Australian children have the fifth highest global rates of atopic disease. To prevent food allergy, the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit has been advising maternal dietary modifications to prevent their children’s allergy. The main objectives of this study were to document the common atopic symptoms and allergy, to assess environmental and hereditary influences on the children’s atopic symptoms and allergy and to evaluate the effectiveness of a maternal dietary modification program aimed at modifying risk of siblings of a child with food allergy. 207 questionnaires and 395 clinical records, including the result of skin prick test and dietary advice information, were analysed to ascertain the purposes. Chi-squared tests were used to determine the prevalence of allergy in groups of age, sex, parent’s allergic status and maternal dietary status, and a P-value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant. Egg allergy was found to be common in children aged 1 to 3 years, and allergy to peanuts tended to emerge in later life (3 to 5 years of age). Although peanuts allergy has been reported to be persisting, the prevalence was less common the group aged over 15 and adults. The influence of genetics on the children’s predisposition to food allergy was only significant for fish allergy. A significant preventive effect was observed in the maternal modification group for peanuts (p=0.018) until 16 months although the strategies did not reduce siblings getting other food allergies. This study suggested that the prevalence of peanuts allergy may be increasing, and it is difficult to predict the individual at low or high risk of food allergies by parental allergic status. Although follow up study needs, in order to prevent the upward trend of nuts allergy, all women may need to follow nuts avoidance in late pregnancy and lactation.