Food allergies pose higher risks to children, non-Hispanic blacks and males when compared to other populations.
The study estimates that 2.5 percent of the United States population, or about 7.6 million Americans, have food allergies.
The odds of male black children having food allergies were 4.4 times higher than others in the general population.
The research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the first to use a nationally representative sample, as well as specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) or antibody levels to quantify allergic sensitization to common foods, including peanuts, milk, eggs, and shrimp.
"This study is very comprehensive in its scope. It is the first study to use specific blood serum levels and look at food allergies across the whole life spectrum, from young children aged 1 to 5, to adults 60 and older," said Dr. Darryl Zeldin, senior author on the paper.
In addition to the identification of race, ethnicity, gender, and age as risk factors for food allergies, the researchers also found an association between food allergy and severe asthma.
Food allergy rates were highest (4.2 percent) for children 1 to 5 years. The lowest rates (1.3 percent) were found in adults over the age of 60.
The prevalence of peanut allergies in children aged 1 to 5 was 1.8 percent and in children aged 6 to19, it was 2.7 percent. In adults, the rate was 0.3 percent.
The odds of patients with asthma and food allergies experiencing a severe asthma attack were 6.9 times higher than those without clinically defined food allergies.
The data used for the study comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2006.
The study appears in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.