Multiple food allergies may affect kids’ growth

Last Updated: 2002-11-18 13:30:53 -0400 (Reuters Health)

By Suzanne Rostler

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Children with two or more food allergies may grow up to be shorter than their less allergic peers, researchers report.

Their study found that nearly one quarter of children with at least two food allergies fell into the 25th percentile for their height-meaning they were smaller than 75% of their peers–compared with just 5% of children with one food allergy.

Multiple food allergies are rare–up to 8% of children develop food allergies within the first 3 years of life, but few will be allergic to more than one food, according to the report. Most children will outgrow their allergies by age 5, the researchers note in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Nonetheless, the results highlight the importance of a regular nutrition assessment for allergic children, who are forced to avoid nutrient-rich foods such as milk in order to prevent sometimes life-threatening allergic reactions. Eliminating foods may compromise growth and development.

“My findings confirm that children with two or more food allergies or a milk allergy need to have their growth and diet monitored to ensure appropriate growth and nutrient intake,” Lynn Christie from Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, the study’s lead author, told Reuters Health.

Indeed, nutritional counseling improved calcium intake among all children, she notes. One quarter of tots with and without allergies consumed less than 67% of the recommended amounts of the bone-building nutrients calcium and vitamin D.

“If this continues, they may be at risk of developing‚Ķosteoporosis as older adults,” Christie warned.

She stressed that children need to eat a variety of foods to make sure they are getting the range of nutrients they need to grow.

“If a child is allergic to an important food like milk, the child needs to keep drinking a safe formula or soy beverage fortified with calcium and vitamin D,” she said.

To investigate the effect of food allergies on growth, researchers reviewed 3-day food diaries of nearly 200 children whose average age was roughly 4 years. They also measured height and weight and calculated body mass, a weight-for-height measure.

Children with an allergy to cow’s milk were less likely to get adequate calcium. Two thirds of children with food allergies also suffered from eczema, a chronic skin disorder marked by redness and itching. Eczema has been linked with poor growth in children, the researchers note.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2002;102:1648-1651.