Experts at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) are today presenting research that shows higher levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), found in abundance in junk food, are associated with food allergy in children.
Researchers from the University of Naples ‘Federico II’ observed three groups of children aged between 6-12 years old: those with food allergies, those with respiratory allergies, and healthy controls. They found a significant correlation between subcutaneous levels of AGEs and junk food consumption, and further, that children with food allergies had higher levels of AGEs than those children with respiratory allergies or no allergies at all. The research team also found compelling evidence relating to the mechanism of action elicited by AGEs in determining food allergy.
AGEs are proteins or lipids that become glycated after exposure to sugars and are present at high levels in junk foods – deriving from sugars, processed foods, microwaved foods and roasted or barbequed meats. AGEs are known to play a role in the development of diabetes, atherosclerosis and neurological disorders but this is the first time an association has been found between AGEs and food allergy.
There is growing evidence that food allergy prevalence is increasing, especially amongst young children, and incidence is known to be as high as 10% in some countries. Similarly, there has been a dramatic increase in the consumption of highly-processed foods, comprising up to 50 per cent of total daily energy intake in European countries.
“Existing models of food allergy do not explain the dramatic increase observed in recent years – so dietary AGEs may be the missing link. We need further research to confirm this, strengthening the case for governments to enhance public health interventions to restrict junk food consumption in children,” said principal investigator Roberto Berni Canani.
Isabel Proaño of the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations added:
“Healthcare professionals and patients do not have access to all the necessary knowledge to face a disease that dramatically impacts their quality of life, and industrialised food processing and labelling gaps do not help. We call on the public health authorities to enable better prevention and care of food allergy.”