Being born in the US raises the risk of allergy

recent study published in JAMA Pedriatr. shows that children born outside the US have a lower prevalence of allergic disease that increases after residing in the US for ten years.

Jonathan I. Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH; Eric L. Simpson, MD, MCR; Helen G. Durkin, PhD; Rauno Joks, MD, Prevalence of Allergic Disease in Foreign-Born American Children, JAMA Pediatr. 2013;167(6):554-560. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.1319.

The study reports that “children born outside the United States have significantly lower prevalence of allergic disorders, including asthma, eczema, hay fever, and food allergies. However, the odds of developing allergic disease significantly increased after residing in the United States for one decade or longer.”

Questions this study raises

The increased allergy rate in children born in the united States compared to children born in other countries is often attributed to the hygiene hypothesis, by which living in an environment with a low level of germs and contaminants actually results in an over activation of the immune system against itself (creating autoimmune diseases). While some studies describe a striking relationship between asthma in children and immunization, other authors conclude that no relation can be found between the level of vaccinations and the rate of increased allergy. However, some claim that “the current epidemic of allergic disease is a small price to pay for the marked suppression in infant mortality provided by measures such as improved sanitation, access to drinkable water and vaccination”.

Food allergies and food intolerances have seen a drastic increase in the last 20 years. A report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) mentions an increase in food allergies in children aged 0-17 years from 3.4% to 5.1% between 1997 and 2011. Of note, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) were first introduced in our diets around 1983.

Whether to blame a too low level of germs in our environment, or a poor quality of our diet, it is certainly important to wonder about the causes of such drastic increases of allergies and intolerances, which affect every day quality of life. Autoimmune diseases are on the rise, and people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) might not agree with the idea that widespread vaccinations against varicella or use of GMOs in virtually all prepared foods were “well worth the sacrifice”.


Copyright (see copyright page): © “Food, Science and Health” ( by Barbara Cerf-Allen, 2013 All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: I am not advocating any of the above mentioned diets, nor am I making any claim about their usefulness for your specific condition. I am not a medical doctor and I am not giving medical advice. This blog is about sharing scientific information and my personal anecdotal experience,

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