Food allergy is a growing clinical and public health problem world-wide. The rising incidence is occurring more rapidly than changes to the genome sequence would allow, but it is yet to be determined whether environmental factors might act in interaction with genetic risk. That is to say, are environmental factors more likely to affect those genetically at risk? Family history is a strong risk factor for the development of food allergy as it co-aggregates with other atopic diseases and as such genetic factors do play an important role in food allergy risk. However, significant interest has now turned to the role of epigenetic modifications of the genome as the major mediator of gene–environment interaction. The consideration of the role of epigenetics in food allergy is likely to provide an insight into aetiological and biological disease mechanisms. This paper discusses the current state of knowledge regarding genetic and environmental risk factors for food allergy, and considers the potential for furthering our understanding of food allergy aetiology by examining the role of epigenetic variation.
Cite this as: T. H.-T. Tan, J. A. Ellis, R. Saffery and K. J. Allen, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2012 (42) 20–29.