Food Allergy

Editor(s): H. Szajewska Annales Nestlé Vol.69 / 3,  2011


Food allergies is a public health issue affecting approx. 5% of young children and is on the rise. The 69/3 issue of the Annales summarizes the impact of nutritional interventions, updates on diagnosis and treatment as well as a health economic evaluation.

  • Food Allergy: Recent Advances in Pathophysiology and Diagnosis

    Author(s): C. Dupont

    Approximately 5% of young children and 3–4% of adults exhibit adverse immune responses to foods in westernized countries, with a tendency to increase. The pathophysiology of food allergy (FA) relies on immune reactions triggered by epitopes, i.e. small amino-acid sequences able to bind to antibodies or cells. Some food allergens share specific physicochemical characteristics that allow them to resist digestion, thus enhancing allergenicity. These allergens encounter specialized dendritic cell populations in the gut, which leads to T-cell priming. In case of IgE-mediated allergy, this process triggers the production of allergen-specific IgE by B cells. 

    Tissue-resident reactive cells, including mast cells, then bind IgE, and allergic reactions are elicited when these cells, with adjacent IgE molecules bound to their surface, are re-exposed to allergen. Allergic reactions occurring in the absence of detectable IgE are labeled non-IgE mediated. The abrogation of oral tolerance which leads to FA is likely favored by genetic disposition and environmental factors (e.g. increased hygiene or enhanced allergenicity of some foods). For an accurate diagnosis, complete medical history, laboratory tests and, in most cases, an oral food challenge are needed. Noticeably, the detection of food-specific IgE (sensitization) does not necessarily indicate clinical allergy. Novel diagnostic methods currently under study focus on the immune responses to specific food proteins or epitopes of specific proteins. Food-induced allergic reactions represent a large array of symptoms involving the skin and gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. They can be attributed to IgEmediated and non-IgE-mediated (cellular) mechanisms and thus differ in their nature, severity and outcome. Outcome also differs according to allergens.

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