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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53612. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053612. Epub 2013 Jan 3.

Variable food-specific IgG antibody levels in healthy and symptomatic Chinese adults.

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International Medical Center, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing, China.



The presence of food-specific IgG antibodies in human serum may be useful for diagnosis of adverse food reactions. However, the clinical utility of testing for such antibodies remains very controversial. The aim of this study was to evaluate the serum levels and population distribution of food-specific IgGs and their association with chronic symptoms in a large-scale Chinese population.


A total of 21305 adult participants from different regions of China had 14 type of food-specific serum IgG antibodies that were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Among these, 5,394 participants were randomly chosen to complete follow-up questionnaire surveys on their dietary characteristics and chronic symptoms. The concentrations of food-specific IgGs against 14 foods ranged from a median (interquartile range) of 7.3 (3.8, 12.6) U/mL of pork-specific IgG to 42.3 (28.8, 60.2) U/mL of crab-specific IgG. The concentration of food-specific IgGs was closely related to gender; after adjustment for region and age, women had higher concentrations of food-specific IgGs against all of the 14 foods except chicken (regression coefficient (95% CI): 0.01 (-0.003, 0.023); P = 0.129) and corn (0.002 (-0.013, 0.016); P = 0.825). Similar results were also found in the relationship of geographic region to the food-specific IgG concentrations for the 14 foods. Chronic symptoms were negatively associated with the concentrations of a few food-specific IgGs, and were positively associated with the concentrations of other food-specific IgGs.


The levels of food-specific IgGs were variable both in healthy and in symptomatic Chinese adults. These findings raise awareness that demographic factors, the type of food and specific chronic symptoms should be considered before food elimination treatment based on IgG testing in patients with chronic symptoms is used in clinical practice.

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