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Keywords:

  • children;
  • food allergy;
  • growth;
  • malnutrition;
  • obesity

Abstract

Background

The mainstay of dietary management of food allergies remains the elimination diet. However, the removal of major food groups may predispose children to an inadequate nutrient intake. We therefore set out to establish growth status in food allergic children receiving dietetic input in the UK.

Methods

Dietitians were approached via the Food Allergy and Intolerance Specialist Group from the British Dietetic Association and asked to submit anthropometrical data for children with food allergies. Data collected related to the systems involved and number of foods excluded. Malnutrition was defined according to World Health Organization standards.

Results

Data from 13 different centres yielded 97 patients (51 male and 46 female) of which 66 excluded ≤2 foods and 31 excluded ≥3 foods. Data indicated that 8.5% had a weight for age ≤ −2 Z-score and, conversely, 8.5% were ≥2 Z-score. For height for age, 11.1% were ≤ −2 Z-score and, for weight for height, 3.7% were ≤ −2 Z-score and 7.5% ≥2 Z-score. Type of allergy, system involved and specific food elimination did not impact on the level of malnutrition. However, the elimination of ≥3 foods significantly impacted on weight for age (P = 0.044).

Conclusions

The present study demonstrates that children with food allergies are more underweight than the general UK population, which appears to be linked to the number of foods excluded. However, the impact of the disease process itself should not be disregarded. Additionally, obesity can also occur in this population despite dietary elimination.