Food and Behaviour Research

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Association of Food Allergy and Other Allergic Conditions With Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children

Xu G, Snetselaar LG, Jing J, Liu B, Lane Strathearn L, Bao W (2018) JAMA  2018;1(2): e180279. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0279 

Web URL: Read the research on JAMA Network here


Importance  The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in US children has increased during the past decades. Immunologic dysfunction has recently emerged as a factor associated with ASD. Although children with ASD are more likely to have gastrointestinal disorders, little is known about the association between food allergy and ASD.

Objective  To examine the association of food allergy and other allergic conditions with ASD in US children.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This population-based, cross-sectional study used data from the National Health Interview Survey collected between 1997 and 2016. The data analysis was performed in 2018. All eligible children aged 3 to 17 years were included. Food allergy, respiratory allergy, and skin allergy were defined based on an affirmative response in the questionnaire by a parent or guardian.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Reported ASD diagnosed by a physician or other health professional.

Results  This analysis included 199 520 children (unweighted mean [SD] age, 10.21 [4.41] years; 102 690 boys [51.47%]; 55 476 Hispanic [27.80%], 97 200 non-Hispanic white [48.72%], 30 760 non-Hispanic black [15.42%], and 16 084 non-Hispanic other race [8.06%]). Among them, 8734 (weighted prevalence, 4.31%) had food allergy, 24 555 (12.15%) had respiratory allergy, and 19 399 (9.91%) had skin allergy. A diagnosis of ASD was reported in 1868 children (0.95%). The weighted prevalence of reported food, respiratory, and skin allergies was higher in children with ASD (11.25%, 18.73%, and 16.81%, respectively) compared with children without ASD (4.25%, 12.08%, and 9.84%, respectively). In analyses adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, family highest education level, family income level, geographical region, and mutual adjustment for other allergic conditions, the associations between allergic conditions and ASD remained significant. The odds ratio (OR) of ASD increased in association with food allergy (OR, 2.29; 95% CI, 1.87-2.81), respiratory allergy (OR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.10-1.50), and skin allergy (OR, 1.50; 95% CI, 1.28-1.77) when comparing children with these conditions and those without.

Conclusions and Relevance  In a nationally representative sample of US children, a significant and positive association of common allergic conditions, in particular food allergy, with ASD was found. Further investigation is warranted to elucidate the causality and underlying mechanisms.


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