Ask The Expert
December 14, 2020
Food Allergy in the Elderly
I am a researcher and educator in Europe. We are implementing research on aging subjects, however I haven't found information on food allergy in the elderly. Can you share any information about food allergy in elderly patients? Thank you in advance.
In recent years, food allergy has been increasing worldwide and in all age groups. There is more information available about this topic related to children and young adults, but lately more studies in the elderly population has been published. Therefore, there is new information about this topic, which we will review.
The prevalence of general allergy in this age group is reported to range from 5% to 10%. The prevalence varies according to how it is reported, if it self-reported, or if laboratory tests and skin prick tests are performed. There is no official data for food allergy prevalence, but there are some studies that give us information. A study reported that in 24.8% of geriatric nursing home patients (mean age of 77) were detected specific IgE to food allergens.
Food allergies in the elderly are driven by immunosenescence, as well as the cell aging and tissue modifications that characterize advanced age. The aged gastrointestinal mucosa is central in the development of FAs in the elderly through its compromised digestive properties and structural changes, as well as the alteration of its immune functions linked to immunosenescence and age-related microbiota remodeling. Among the risk factors for the sensitization to food allergens in the elderly, in addition to chronic damage and inflammation of gut epithelia due to the aging process, there are chronic alcohol consumption, chronic infections, multimorbidity, polymedication, and drug side effects. The most frequent foods that elicit allergies in the elderly are fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, shellfish.
There is still much to investigate with regard to food allergy in older people, but it is clear that we must consider the physiological changes that occur at this stage of life.
- Massimo De Martinis, Maria Maddalena Sirufo, Lia Ginaldi Allergy and Aging: An Old/New Emerging Health Issue Aging and Disease, Volume 8, Number 2, April 2017 http://dx.doi.org/10.14336/AD.2016.0831
- E. Jensen-Jarolim and S.A.F Jensen Food allergies in the elderly: Collecting the evidence Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 117 (2016) 472e475
- Massimo De Martinis, Maria Maddalena Sirufo, Angelo Viscido, Lia Ginaldi Review: Food Allergies and Ageing Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20, 5580; doi:10.3390/ijms20225580
Gabriela Pérez-Casquino, MD
Allergy and Clinical Immunology
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