Peanut Allergy in Your DNA

Peanut allergies have genetic link to those with an African ancestry

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Have you ever been on a plane and the stewardess announces no complimentary peanuts can be handed out because someone has a severe peanut allergy? This happens more and more and the allergy can be genetically caused.

A Northwestern University study indicates that children with an African heritage are more likely to develop peanut allergies.

"See an allergist and have your child tested for food allergies."

Rajesh Kumar, M.D., an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a pediatric allergist at Children’s Memorial Hospital reports that studies being tracked indicate that African Americans have a higher incidence of peanut allergies. His study found similar results in the African American community, but also added other groups whose heritages are from different continents, that are at risk to develop peanut allergies.

Dr. Kumar adds that his study illuminates the need for examining genetic as well as environmental factors associated with peanut allergies. More studies are recommended to determine which genetic and environmental factors are leading to more peanut allergies.

Teri Bedillion, B.S.N., M.B.A., serves as a school nurse in a private grade school which has a student population that is predominantly white. Even in a predominately white school, Bedillion says, "A peanut-free zone policy has been adopted. This means, because so many of their students have peanut allergies, no child is allowed to bring peanut butter sandwiches or cookies in their lunches." This indicates an increase in peanut allergies in all races.

Interestingly, researchers did not see an association with race and allergies to milk and eggs. This could indicate different factors are in play other than ancestry that lead to dairy allergies. Seemingly, early life factors, like inclusion of vitamin D in the diet and racial identity, are more impactful on the incidence of peanut allergies than dairy allergies.

More than 1100 children, mean age just under 3 years, from an urban, multi-racial birth cohort are participating in the ongoing study.  This study determined children with an African American heritage were more likely to be allergic to different foods, in particular peanuts.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 9, 2011
Last Updated:
September 26, 2011