The prevalence of plant food allergies: a systematic review

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 May;121(5):1210-1218.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2008.02.019. Epub 2008 Apr 18.


Background: There is uncertainty regarding the prevalence of allergies to plant food.

Objective: To assess the prevalence of allergies to plant food according to the different subjective and objective assessment methods.

Methods: Our systematic search of population-based studies (since 1990) in the literature database MEDLINE focused on fruits, vegetables/legumes, tree nuts, wheat, soy, cereals, and seeds. Prevalence estimates were categorized by food item and method used (food challenges, skin prick test, serum IgE, parent/self-reported symptoms), complemented by appropriate meta-analyses.

Results: We included 36 studies with data from a total of over 250,000 children and adults. Only 6 studies included food challenge tests with prevalences ranging from 0.1% to 4.3% each for fruits and tree nuts, 0.1% to 1.4% for vegetables, and < 1% each for wheat, soy, and sesame. The prevalence of sensitization against any specific plant food item assessed by skin prick test was usually < 1%, whereas sensitization assessed by IgE against wheat ranged as high as 3.6% and against soy as high as 2.9%. For fruit and vegetables, prevalences based on perception were generally higher than those based on sensitization, but for wheat and soy in adults, sensitization was higher. Meta-analyses showed significant heterogeneity between studies regardless of food item or age group.

Conclusion: Population-based prevalence estimates for allergies to plant products determined by the diagnostic gold standard are scarce. There was considerable heterogeneity in the prevalence estimates of sensitization or perceived allergic reactions to plant food.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Fruit / adverse effects
  • Fruit / immunology
  • Humans
  • Nuts / adverse effects
  • Nuts / immunology
  • Plants / adverse effects*
  • Plants / immunology*
  • Prevalence
  • Vegetables / adverse effects
  • Vegetables / immunology