Obesity and Risk for Having Allergies Bellerose NY
If you have an allergy, your body’s immune system has been programmed to treat a particular substance in food or the environment as an enemy. Defending us against harmful substances is part of the immune system’s job. With allergies, the immune system reacts to a substance that, for the non-allergic person, is completely harmless. The specific substances that cause allergic reactions are called “allergens.” Composed largely of protein, allergens can be food ingredients, chemicals, or environmental substances such as pollen, dust mites, and animal dander. (Another word for allergen is “antigen.”) IgE (immunoglobulin E) is the antibody class that is largely responsible for allergic reactions. IgE triggers a special type of immune cell called the “Mast cell” to release histamine and other potent chemicals into the blood stream. When an antigen comes in contact with IgE antibodies, an “antigen-antibody” complex is formed. This complex signals the Mast cell to open up storage granules inside the cell that contain histamine and a host of other potent chemicals. This process is called “degranulation.” Once in the bloodstream, these substances produce allergic reactions in the skin, the respiratory tract, and the gastrointestinal tract.
Body weight is one of the most basic issues of human life. Self-esteem, acceptance among peers– and perhaps lifelong success or failure-are, unfortunately, all tied to our physical appearance. Thin is in, especially today. The prevalence of slender, even skinny models in advertising is ample evidence of our society’s attitudes about body weight. While being overweight is certainly unhealthy, the fear and loathing attached to body fat can also be detrimental when it leads to eating disorders such as anorexia. But consternation over the impact of obsession with thinness on our national psyche, especially where young people are concerned, should not obscure the obvious fact that too many Americans are overweight. Everywhere you look, people are fighting the “Battle of the Bulge.”
A study recently published in the May issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that obese children and adolescents are at increased risk of having some kind of allergy, especially to a food. Researchers studied data from 4,111 children and young adults aged 2 to 19 years of age. They analyzed the total and allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) or antibody levels to a large panel of indoor, outdoor and food allergens, body weight, and responses to a questionnaire about diagnoses of hay fever, eczema, and allergies. The researchers defined obesity as being in the 95th percentile of the body mass index for the child’s age. The results revealed that IgE levels were higher among children who were obese or overweight. It was also found that obese children were about 26 percent more likely to have allergies than children of normal weight. Obese children were also found to have food allergies at a rate 59 percent higher than non-obese children. Although the results of this study appear to connect the rise in allergies to increasing obesity rates, more research is needed to further investigate this potential link.1
1 Visness CM, London SJ, Daniels JL, et al. Association of obesity with IgE levels and allergy symptoms in children and adolescents: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006. J Allergy Clin Immunol. May2009;123(5):1163-9.
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