Food allergies, defined as an adverse immune response to food proteins, affect as many as 6% of young children and 3%-4% of adults in westernized countries, and their prevalence appears to be rising. In addition to well-recognized acute allergic reactions and anaphylaxis triggered by IgE antibody-mediated immune responses to food proteins, there is an increasing recognition of cell-mediated disorders such as eosinophilic gastroenteropathies and food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome. We are gaining an increasing understanding of the pathophysiology of food allergic disorders and are beginning to comprehend how these result from a failure to establish or maintain normal oral tolerance. Many food allergens have been characterized at a molecular level, and this knowledge, combined with an increasing appreciation of the nature of humoral and cellular immune responses resulting in allergy or tolerance, is leading to novel therapeutic approaches. Currently, management of food allergies consists of educating the patient to avoid ingesting the responsible allergen and initiating therapy if ingestion occurs. However, numerous strategies for definitive treatment are being studied, including sublingual/oral immunotherapy, injection of anti-IgE antibodies, cytokine/anticytokine therapies, Chinese herbal therapies, and novel immunotherapies utilizing engineered proteins and strategic immunomodulators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-277
Number of pages17
JournalAnnual Review of Medicine
StatePublished - 2009


  • Anaphylaxis
  • Food allergens
  • Food hypersensitivity
  • Immunotherapy
  • Oral tolerance


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