Researchers find link between food allergies and childhood anxiety

June 29, 2017, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Albert Einstein College of Medicine studied the link between food allergy and childhood anxiety and depression among a sample of predominantly low socioeconomic status minority children. The results showed that children with a food allergy had a significantly higher prevalence of childhood anxiety. Food allergies were not associated with symptoms of childhood depression or with symptoms of anxiety or depression among their caregivers. The results are published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Food allergies are increasingly common among youth in the U.S. with recent estimates as high as 8 percent. Until now little was known about the prevalence of allergy in low socioeconomic ethnic minority populations.

The researchers studied 80 pediatric patients ages 4-12 years, 8 years old on average, with and without food allergy and their caregivers from urban pediatric outpatient clinics in the Bronx, New York. They controlled for an asthma diagnosis in the , as anxiety and mood disorders are more prevalent among youth with asthma and especially more common in low socioeconomic minority children.

Among the children with a food allergy, 57 percent reported having symptoms of anxiety compared to 48 percent of children without a food allergy. Approximately 48 percent of the children had symptoms of depression with or without a food allergy.

"Management of food allergy can be expensive both in terms of food shopping, meal preparation, and the cost of epinephrine auto-injectors, which expire annually," said Renee Goodwin, PhD, in the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and lead author. "These demands could result in higher levels of anxiety for those with fewer financial resources and further heighten anxiety symptoms in children and their caregivers."

The results suggest that food allergy is particularly linked to elevated social anxiety and fear of social rejection and humiliation. "There are a number of possible explanations for the relationship found between food allergy diagnosis and increased social anxiety issues in this sample of pediatric patients," noted Dr. Goodwin. "Management of a potentially life-threatening condition may be anxiety provoking, and some children may experience increased about being "different" from other children depending on their age and how food allergy is managed by adults in a particular setting."

The researchers also point out a possible explanation for not finding a link between food allergy and depression in children. The sample was young, and the mean age of onset for depression is significantly later than anxiety. "It would be worthwhile to examine these relationships among older adolescents and young adults with food allergy who are at the peak of risk for depression onset, especially because early anxiety is associated with increased risk for subsequent onset of depression," said Jonathan Feldman, PhD, professor at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University.

"With the high prevalence of food allergies today, education in schools remains a priority," said Dr. Goodwin. "Given the strong association between food and social in children future investigations on the -mental health relationship are also warranted in clinical, school, and community-based settings which could aid in the development of interventions."

Explore further: Bacterial colonization linked to food sensitization, allergy

Related Stories

Bacterial colonization linked to food sensitization, allergy

June 27, 2017
(HealthDay)—There is a correlation between bacterial colonization and food sensitization and allergy in young children, according to a study published online June 20 in Allergy.

Food allergies linked to raised risk of asthma, hay fever

September 14, 2016
(HealthDay)—Children with food allergies are at increased risk for asthma and hay fever, and the risk rises with the number of food allergies, new research shows.

It's mom who sees troubles for teens with food allergies

January 20, 2016
Teens with food allergies are more likely to have depression, anxiety or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—and it's mom that notices it.

AAAAI: early-life secondhand smoke may up food allergy risk

March 8, 2017
(HealthDay)—Exposure to secondhand smoke in the first few weeks of life could increase the risk that children will develop food allergies, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of ...

Diagnosing and managing food allergies: A guide for physicians

September 6, 2016
A new review aims to help physicians diagnose and manage food allergies in children and adults. The article, published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) looks at recent evidence from guidelines, randomized controlled ...

Eating reassessment urged after negative oral food challenge

October 29, 2016
(HealthDay)—For children with a negative oral food challenge (OFC), there is a correlation between consumption of reintroduced food with the child's interest in tasting new foods before and after the challenge, according ...

Recommended for you

Study shows changes in histone methylation patterns in nutritionally stunted children

November 13, 2018
An international team of researchers has found changes in histone methylation patterns in nutritionally stunted children. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their ...

Your 6-month-old isn't sleeping through the night? Relax

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—If your 6-month-old still wakes up at 2 a.m., a new study suggests you don't lose any additional sleep worrying about it.

New exercise guidelines: Move more, sit less, start younger

November 12, 2018
Move more, sit less and get kids active as young as age 3, say new federal guidelines that stress that any amount and any type of exercise helps health.

Some activity fine for kids recovering from concussions, docs say

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Children and teens who suffer a sports-related concussion should reduce, but not eliminate, physical and mental activity in the days after their injury, an American Academy of Pediatrics report says.

Breast milk and babies' saliva shape oral microbiome

November 8, 2018
Newborn breastfed babies' saliva combines with breastmilk to release antibacterial compounds that help to shape the bacterial communities (microbiota) in babies' mouths, biomedical scientists have found.

Preschool children show awake responses to naptime nonsense words

November 7, 2018
Of all of our senses, hearing is the only one that has long been suspected as being "on" all the time—even in our sleep. Sounds that occur during the night have a way of registering in the brain. Now a group of scientists ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.