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Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1996 Oct;77(4):327-32.

Prevalence of sensitization to food allergens in adult Swedes.

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Department of Lung Medicine and Asthma Research Centre, Akademiska sjukhuset, Uppsala, Sweden.



The results from a population study on respiratory symptoms and bronchial hyperresponsiveness in relation to symptoms of food intolerance and sensitization to food allergens are reported.


The study included 1,812 men and women, aged 20 to 44 years and residents in three areas of Sweden who participated in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. The prevalence of IgE sensitization to egg white, fish, wheat, peanut, soy, and milk was assayed by CAP-RAST and the prevalence of symptoms of food intolerance was determined by a standardized questionnaire.


The study group included a random sample of 1,397 subjects from the general population at the three centers. Of these, 85 (6%) had specific IgE antibodies to one of the food allergens and 345 (25%) reported symptoms of food intolerance. After enrichment with subjects suffering from symptoms of asthma, the sample included a total of 1,812 individuals of which 144 subjects had specific IgE antibodies to one or more of the food allergens studied. Of these 144, 52% reported food intolerance but only 16% related the symptoms to any of the food allergens in the panel. Sensitization to food allergens was more common in atopic subjects, subjects reporting current asthma, and subjects with bronchial hyperresponsiveness (P < .001). These associations remained significant after adjustment for the degree of allergic sensitization, whether defined as the number of positive skin prick tests or as total serum IgE levels.


Although sensitization to food allergens is not uncommon in adults, the correlation to specific symptoms of food intolerance is weak. Sensitization to food allergens may have special relevance to asthma and bronchial hyperresponsiveness.

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