Researchers at the University of Southampton and its attached hospital have assessed the prevalence of two types of food hypersensitivity and risk factors associated with them. This is a first-of-its-kind study.

The term “food hypersensitivity” is used to describe any condition where there is a reaction to food, including allergies. The standard allergic reaction test, measuring IgE (immunoglobulin E) in the blood is used to measure sensitivity. Two categories were grouped, one with near-immediate symptoms upon exposure to the allergen (called IgE-mediated) and the other with more latent results 4 to 28 hours later (non-IgE-mediated).

The study included 1,140 pregnant women in the United Kingdom and their children.

The study was published in the journal Clinical and Translational Allergy and followed the pregnant women through to their child’s second year after birth. Risk factors were associated with allergies after birth.

Risk factors already commonly known and generally accepted as existent, including eczema and rhinitis, were found to be associated with higher risks. So were having pets in the home and the age at which solid foods were introduced to an infant.

The study’s authors offered theories as to why pets in the home were a risk factor, guessing that it may be due to changes in gut flora via food contamination. The earlier children were introduced to solid foods, the more likely they were to have an allergy later on – something speculated in other studies before.

What was noted was that healthy diets during pregnancy and during breast feeding were associated with lower food allergy risks in the child.

The study was part of a wider European Union study called EuroPrevail.

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