Food allergies and cardiovascular health


Recent research has shown a potentially vital link between common food allergens and an increased risk of heart disease-related mortality, even among individuals without apparent food allergies (Figure 1). The study suggests that sensitivity to foods like cow’s milk, peanuts, and shrimp might pose a previously unrecognized risk factor for cardiovascular death.

Figure 1: Graphical abstract.

In the study, individuals exhibiting increased levels of IgE antibodies to common foods, notably cow’s milk, showed a significantly heightened risk of cardiovascular mortality. Notably, this risk persisted even after accounting for established heart disease risk factors such as hypertension, smoking, and diabetes. While cow’s milk revealed the strongest association, IgE reactivity to other allergens like peanuts and shrimp also correlated with elevated cardiovascular mortality among those who consumed these foods regularly.

Although the study doesn’t definitively establish food antibodies as the direct cause of increased cardiovascular risk, it reinforces prior research linking allergic inflammation and heart disease. Individuals with IgE antibodies to foods they regularly consumed appeared more susceptible to heart disease-related fatalities.

The investigation utilised two approaches to highlight the association between IgE sensitization to foods and cardiovascular mortality. Formerly, cardiovascular disease hadn’t been identified as a prolonged consequence of food sensitization, except for recent connections between specific allergens like alpha-gal and coronary artery disease. This newly established link between milk sensitization and cardiovascular mortality paves the way for further exploration into the role of food sensitization and dietary influences in cardiovascular disease development.

Given the novelty of the finding of the link between food sensitization and cardiovascular mortality, there’s an imperative need for further exploration. Understanding the relevance of food allergies in cardiovascular health remains an evolving area of investigation, offering potential insights into preventive strategies and dietary considerations to mitigate heart disease risk associated with food allergens.

Journal article: Keet, C., et al., 2023. IgE to common food allergens is associated with cardiovascular mortality in the National Health and Examination Survey and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Summary by Stefan Botha

International Union of Immunological SocietiesUniversity of South AfricaInstitute of Infectious Disease and Molecular MedicineElizabeth Glazer Pediatric Aids Foundation