Genetics plays a role in the development of allergies but they don’t entirely explain them. Studies show that if one parent has allergies, children are 30% to 50% more likely to develop them. If both parents have allergies, this chance increases to 60% to 80%. And if there is no family history of allergic disease, a child has a 12% of developing allergies.
One study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that specific genetic mutations are associated with an increased risk of allergies. The study analyzed the DNA of more than 100,000 individuals and identified 16 genetic regions that are linked to allergies. These genetic regions were found to be involved in the immune system's response to allergens. While a causal link has not been established, the study found that individuals with these genetic mutations were more likely to develop asthma, eczema, and hay fever.
Another study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that variations in the filaggrin gene are associated with an increased risk of eczema. The filaggrin gene is involved in the production of proteins that maintain the skin barrier. A defect in this gene can lead to a weakened skin barrier, causing moisture loss from the skin and allowing allergens to penetrate the skin and trigger an immune response.
While research indicates that increased susceptibility to allergies is genetic, genes typically don’t dictate a specific allergic condition. For example, if your parents are allergic to several foods, you’re more likely to develop allergies in general. They may not be the same foods that your mom or dad are allergic to, however, and they may not even be food allergies at all.
Aside from genetics, environmental factors like pollution, diet, and allergen exposure impact the development of allergies. If you have a family history of allergies, it is important to take steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle or treat the root cause entirely.
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(3) Brown, S. J., McLean, W. H., & Irvine, A. D. (2017). Filaggrin genetics in atopic dermatitis: from skin barrier dysfunction to allergic sensitization. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 137(4), 790-797.
(4) Casolaro, V et al. “Biology and genetics of atopic disease.” Current opinion in immunology vol. 8,6 (1996): 796-803. doi:10.1016/s0952-7915(96)80007-0
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