The Epidemiology of Food Allergy in the Global Context

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Sep 18;15(9):2043. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15092043.


There is a lack of high-quality evidence based on the gold standard of oral food challenges to determine food allergy prevalence. Nevertheless, studies using surrogate measures of food allergy, such as health service utilization and clinical history, together with allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (sIgE), provide compelling data that the prevalence of food allergy is increasing in both Western and developing countries. In Western countries, challenge-diagnosed food allergy has been reported to be as high as 10%, with the greatest prevalence noted among younger children. There is also growing evidence of increasing prevalence in developing countries, with rates of challenge-diagnosed food allergy in China and Africa reported to be similar to that in Western countries. An interesting observation is that children of East Asian or African descent born in a Western environment are at higher risk of food allergy compared to Caucasian children; this intriguing finding emphasizes the importance of genome-environment interactions and forecasts future increases in food allergy in Asia and Africa as economic growth continues in these regions. While cow's milk and egg allergy are two of the most common food allergies in most countries, diverse patterns of food allergy can be observed in individual geographic regions determined by each country's feeding patterns. More robust studies investigating food allergy prevalence, particularly in Asia and the developing world, are necessary to understand the extent of the food allergy problem and identify preventive strategies to cope with the potential increase in these regions.

Keywords: Asia; Westernized countries; food allergy; prevalence; time trends.

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Global Health / trends*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence