Until recently, it was widely believed that 1 and 5 adults suffered from food allergies. But what if the number was actually far lower? Research published in the journal JAMA Network Open indicates that this might be the case.
This report cast a rather wide net, surveying well over 10,000 adults. The team found that 19 percent of participants believed that they were allergic to various foods. However, the number of people actually living with such conditions was much lower.
“While we found that one in 10 adults have food allergy, nearly twice as many adults think that they are allergic to foods, while their symptoms may suggest food intolerance or other food-related conditions,” stated Ruchi Gupta, a Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and study lead author. To put it another way, only half of those who visited doctors regarding possible food allergies actually received positive diagnoses.
The study also unearthed a second interesting finding ‒ it was very common for food allergies to develop in adulthood. In fact, about half of those with food allergies became allergic to certain foods after the age of eighteen. “We were surprised to find that adult-onset food allergies were so common,” Gupta said. “More research is needed to understand why this is occurring and how we might prevent it.”
Taking home the dubious honor of the most common food allergy was shellfish; some 7.2 million Americans have this allergy. Milk and peanuts were the second and third most common food allergies, with 4.7 million Americans allergic to the former and 4.5 million to the latter.
Gupta noted that shellfish allergies usually develop relatively late in life, first appearing in a person’s adult years. Moreover, shellfish allergies tend to stick around once they crop up. Gupta contends that this issue deserves further attention, as medical researchers still have much to learn about this particular allergy.