Food allergies in children affect nutrient intake and growth

J Am Diet Assoc. 2002 Nov;102(11):1648-51. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8223(02)90351-2.


Objectives: To identify if specific food allergies, elimination diets, or other variables associated with food allergies have an impact on the growth and nutrient intake of children with food allergies.

Design: Measurements of height, weight, and body mass index were used to determine potential growth problems. Estimates of energy and nutrient intakes were based on 3-day diet records. A questionnaire was used to determine number of food allergies and other variables.

Subjects: Ninety-eight children with food allergies (subjects, mean age 3.7 +/- 2.3 years) and 99 children without food allergies (controls, mean age 4.1 +/- 2.4 years) participated in this age-matched, consecutive sampling, cross-sectional study.

Statistical analysis performed: Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel statistics using general association and Fisher Exact Test, with 2-sided probability, were conducted.

Results: Children with two or more food allergies were shorter, based on height-for-age percentiles, than those with one food allergy (P<.05). More than 25% of children in both groups consumed less than 67% of the DRI (RDA or AI) for calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin E. More children with cow's milk allergy or multiple food allergies consumed dietary calcium less than age- and gender-specific recommendations compared with children without cow's milk allergy and/or one food allergy. The possibility of consuming a less than recommended intake of calcium and vitamin D in children with food allergy was less if the child received nutrition counseling (P<.05) or consumed a safe infant/toddler formula or fortified soy beverage.

Applications/conclusions: Children diagnosed with food allergies need an annual nutrition assessment to prevent growth problems or inadequate nutrient intake. Children with milk allergies or multiple food allergies are at greater risk. Nutrition education needs to address how to avoid all forms of the allergen and incorporate alternative nutrient-dense foods. This population would benefit from the development and validation of a medical nutrition therapy protocol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arachis / adverse effects
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Eggs / adverse effects
  • Food Hypersensitivity / physiopathology*
  • Growth / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / physiopathology
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E