Despite intake of similar nutrients, a new study suggests that young children with food allergies tend to be smaller than their peers with no such allergies.
The researchers report in the Pediatric Allergy and Immunology journal that the findings accentuate the importance of making sure kids with food allergies get a well-balanced diet and get regular check-ups with pediatricians.
Research has shown that food allergies are becoming more common among children around the world. An estimated 4 percent of US children have an allergy to some type of food — most commonly peanuts, milk and eggs.
Because parents have to be vigilant of the foods children with allergies consume, experts are concerned that some children may not be getting the appropriate nutrition needed.
Dr. Antoine Deschildre and colleagues at Jeanne de Flandre Hospital in Lille, France assessed 96 children with confirmed food allergies. Each was paired up with another child the same age and sex, but free of food allergies.
Overall, the team found no difference in the average height and weight in the two groups. But, when they looked at children’s weight-for-age and height-for-age, the average figures tended to be lower in the food-allergy group.
Also, nine of the children with food allergies had a weight-for-age “Z-score” that was more than two standard deviations below the midpoint for their age and sex — compared with none of the allergy-free group.
Seven of the food-allergic children had a height-for-age score that was two standard deviations below the midpoint, versus two allergy-free children.
Z-scores are calculated by gauging a child’s weight and height in relation to those of other children of the same age and sex.
For example: for a 4-year-old girl the median Z-score translates to a weight of about 35 pounds; a girl who is two standard deviations below that would weigh about 26 pounds, based on World Health Organization growth charts.
Deschildre’s and colleagues said the reasons for the differences are not clear.
The team analyzed data from three-day diet records that parents completed for their children. They found no significant differences between the two groups as far as calorie, protein, and calcium intake. They found that children with food allergies tended to get more vitamin A and E than their peers.
The team speculated that persistent intestinal inflammation in children with food allergies may reduce the nutrient absorption. Whether that is the case or not, is unknown.
The researcher did note that about 88 percent of the children had received nutritional counseling form a dietician, while the rest got advice from their pediatricians.
They say the findings underscore the importance of such counseling and regular evaluations during a child’s growth to limit any growth inconsistencies in children with food allergies.
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