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Clin Transl Allergy. 2015 Oct 13;5:34. doi: 10.1186/s13601-015-0078-3. eCollection 2015.

Sensitivity to food additives, vaso-active amines and salicylates: a review of the evidence.

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Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, Sydney Street, London, SW3 6NP UK.
Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Somerset, UK.
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford, UK.
Great Ormond Street NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.
The David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre, Isle of Wight, UK.


Although there is considerable literature pertaining to IgE and non IgE-mediated food allergy, there is a paucity of information on non-immune mediated reactions to foods, other than metabolic disorders such as lactose intolerance. Food additives and naturally occurring 'food chemicals' have long been reported as having the potential to provoke symptoms in those who are more sensitive to their effects. Diets low in 'food chemicals' gained prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, and their popularity remains, although the evidence of their efficacy is very limited. This review focuses on the available evidence for the role and likely adverse effects of both added and natural 'food chemicals' including benzoate, sulphite, monosodium glutamate, vaso-active or biogenic amines and salicylate. Studies assessing the efficacy of the restriction of these substances in the diet have mainly been undertaken in adults, but the paper will also touch on the use of such diets in children. The difficulty of reviewing the available evidence is that few of the studies have been controlled and, for many, considerable time has elapsed since their publication. Meanwhile dietary patterns and habits have changed hugely in the interim, so the conclusions may not be relevant for our current dietary norms. The conclusion of the review is that there may be some benefit in the removal of an additive or a group of foods high in natural food chemicals from the diet for a limited period for certain individuals, providing the diagnostic pathway is followed and the foods are reintroduced back into the diet to assess for the efficacy of removal. However diets involving the removal of multiple additives and food chemicals have the very great potential to lead to nutritional deficiency especially in the paediatric population. Any dietary intervention, whether for the purposes of diagnosis or management of food allergy or food intolerance, should be adapted to the individual's dietary habits and a suitably trained dietitian should ensure nutritional needs are met. Ultimately a healthy diet should be the aim for all patients presenting in the allergy clinic.


Additives; Allergy; Food; Histamine; Salicylate

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