In a retrospective chart review, food-allergic children older than 2 were in significantly lower weight and body mass index (BMI) percentiles after a 5-year period than healthy controls, according to Caroline Hobbs, MD, of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and colleagues.
In addition, children who had greater numbers of food allergies had significantly lower weight and height than those with only one or two allergies, and those with milk allergies had lower BMI and weight than those with other food allergies, they reported at a poster session at the meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Children with food allergies are treated with "strict avoidance of the allergenic food/s," but few prior studies have looked at associations between such dietary restrictions and nutrition and growth.
To analyze impacts of food allergies on children's growth, Hobbs and co-authors reviewed charts of 5,037 children ages 1 month to 11 years who were evaluated at University of North Carolina pediatric clinics over a 5-year period.
The study sample included 245 food-allergic patients who were age-matched and compared against 4,584 healthy controls, 106 patients with cystic fibrosis, and 102 patients with celiac disease.
Food-allergic participants had a mean age of 4.1 and an average 1.87 allergies. Patients in the three disease categories were mostly white (48.6 percent of those with food allergies, 90.3 percent of those with cystic fibrosis, and 84.3 percent of those with celiac disease), while those in the healthy controls group were comprised of 25 percent whites and 35.4 percent blacks, with 39.6 percent of another, unlisted race.
Most participants had a peanut (55.9 percent), egg (41.6 percent), or milk allergy (26.9 percent). Those with a milk allergy had a significantly greater number of other allergies than those who did not have a milk allergy.
Among participants younger than 2 years, body mass index (BMI) percentiles were significantly lowest among controls with celiac disease, though differences between healthy controls and children with food allergies were significant as well. Among patients 2 years and older, differences between controls with cystic fibrosis or celiac disease were nonsignificantly different.
Compared with healthy controls ages 2 and older, patients with a food allergy were in a significantly lower average BMI percentile. The same was true for weight percentiles.
The researchers also noted that patients with more than two food allergies were in significantly lower weight and height percentiles than those with only one or two food allergies.
While children with milk allergy did not significantly differ in height percentiles from those with other food allergies, milk allergy was associated with significantly lower BMI and weight percentile, particularly among patients younger than 2.
Hobbs and colleagues concluded that the "impact of food allergy is especially pronounced when it requires elimination of more than two foods and/or milk," and that children with milk allergy were "particularly vulnerable, with weight and BMI significantly lower than those with other food allergies."
The authors noted that healthcare professionals should offer proper nutritional assessment and dietary counseling for food-allergic patients to help prevent growth delay.
- Republished with permission from EverydayHealth.com