By Mike Lillis - 10/04/10 07:15 PM EDT
About 7.6 million Americans — or 2.6 percent of the country — suffer from food allergies, the National Institute of Health (NIH) reported Monday, noting that age, gender and ethnicity all seem to play a role.
Black male kids are 4.4 times more likely than the general population to have a food allergy, the researchers found, though the factors behind the discrepancy are not yet clear.
Researchers also reported a link between food allergies and asthma attacks, finding that asthma patients with food allergies were almost seven times more likely to have a severe asthma attack than those without food allergies.
"This study provides further credence that food allergies may be contributing to severe asthma episodes, and suggests that people with a food allergy and asthma should closely monitor both conditions and be aware that they might be related," Andrew Liu, a researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and lead author on the paper, said in a statement.
Among the findings:
• Children aged one to five showed the highest food allergy rates (4.2 percent).
• Adults over the age of 60 had the lowest rates (1.3 percent).
• Peanut allergies were found in 1.8 percent of kids aged one to five, and in 2.7 percent of kids between six and 19.