Study finds possible link between autism, food allergies

Iowa Now – Research

Could there be a link between autism and food allergies? A new study from the University of Iowa suggests one, but researchers are still trying to discover how and why.The study, published online Friday, found that children with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, are more than twice as likely to suffer from a food allergy than children who do not have ASD, reports the university’s news site, Iowa Now.Researchers analyzed the health information of nearly 200,000 children between the ages of 3 and 17 collected by the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, an annual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of American households. The data covered 1997 to 2016.The study found that 11.25 percent of children reportedly diagnosed with ASD have a food allergy, compared with the 4.25 percent of children who are not diagnosed with ASD and have a food allergy.The findings, researchers said, add to a growing body of research that already suggests immunological problems as a possible risk factor for developing autism.Because the study is observational, though, researchers couldn’t identify a cause-and-effect relationship between food allergies and autism, said Wei Bao, an author of the study and assistant professor of epidemiology at the university.“We don’t know which comes first, food allergy or ASD,” Bao told Iowa Now. Previous studies about a possible link between autism and allergies focused mainly on respiratory and skin allergies, and yielded inconclusive results, Bao said. The Iowa study found 18.73 percent of children with ASD also had respiratory allergies, compared with 12.08 percent of children without ASD who had them. It also found that 16.81 percent of children with ASD had skin allergies, compared with 9.84 percent of children without ASD.That suggested to researchers some type of mechanical link between the two.But more study will be needed to understand how allergies and autism, both on the rise, could be connected, pediatric allergist …

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