Around Half Of All Reported Food Allergies Are False Alarms, Says Study

Henrietta Strickland
January 11, 2019

Common food allergy symptoms are hives, welling and chest pain.

These days, it can seem like just about everybody has a food allergy. About one in four (24 percent) reported a current epinephrine prescription, and 38.3 percent reported at least one emergency department visit related to food allergy. Reactions often happen when the immune system produces antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, but it is possible to have non-IgE mediated reactions. Lactose intolerance, for instance, is not the same as a milk allergy, nor is celiac disease, which renders people unable to eat wheat, is also not considered a true allergy.

Ruchi S. Gupta, M.D., M.P.H., from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional survey study involving US adults. But according to a new study, about 11% of American adults actually do.

When it comes to food allergies, Americans are more anxious than they need to be, a new study says. "It's actually higher than what we even see in kids, which is about eight per cent".

The study data indicate that the most prevalent food allergens among US adults are shellfish, affecting 7.2 million adults; milk, affecting 4.7 million; peanut, affecting 4.5 million; tree nut, affecting 3 million; fin fish, affecting 2.2 million; egg, affecting 2 million; wheat, affecting 2 million; soy, affecting 1.5 million; and sesame, affecting 0.5 million. Instead, researchers believe this group could have food intolerances, since many experience stomach cramps or nausea after eating a trigger item.

Perhaps most curious, though, is the researchers' discovery that almost half of food-allergic adults developed at least one of their damaging immune responses later in life. In short, only half of USA adults who think they have a food allergy have actually been diagnosed by a doctor, and less than a quarter have a prescription for epinephrine (a common treatment for allergies).

Also surprising was the discovery that less than half respondents with symptoms indicating a true food allergy had their condition confirmed by a doctor.

In a national survey of more than 40,000 adults, only half of those participants with a "convincing" food allergy (Lurie Children's Hospital's word, not mine) had a physician-confirmed diagnosis. "It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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