Approximately how many people do you know who claim to have food allergies? While some of these may be legitimate, many suspected food allergy claims can be false alarms.
That’s according to a new study that finds that one in 10 people in the United States have food allergies, while nearly double that number mistakenly believe they are allergic to food.
Researchers surveyed more than 40,000 adults living across the country, finding that about 10% were allergic to one or more foods.
However, they also found that 19% of their subjects said they were allergic to certain foods, even though they did not experience the physical reactions that usually accompany a true food allergy.
While there is no doubt that food allergies are real – and for some potentially life-threatening – people who self-diagnose as food allergic without consulting a healthcare professional may misinterpret their symptoms as an allergic reaction, have wrote the study authors.
In these cases, what individuals were experiencing could be a sign of food intolerance “or other diet-related conditions” rather than a true allergic response, says lead author of the study, Dr. Ruchi. Gupta, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Illinois, said in a statement.
Allergic reactions are the immune system’s response to a trigger that is perceived to be a threat. Regarding food allergies, when some people eat a certain type of food – such as tree nuts, shellfish, wheat or dairy products – it sends a warning signal to their immune system, causing reactions that can vary widely between individuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control. and Prevention (CDC).
Symptoms of food allergies can include hives, itching and swelling of the nose and throat, as well as stomach pain or nausea. In extreme cases, food allergies can lead to anaphylaxis – a state of shock accompanied by low blood pressure and constricted airways – which can be fatal if left untreated, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Shellfish are the most common food allergen in the United States, affecting an estimated 7 million adults, according to the study. Milk allergies affect nearly 5 million people, followed closely by peanut allergies, which affect around 5 million people. Other common allergens include tree nuts, fish, eggs, wheat, soybeans and sesame, the scientists reported.
Allergies can be inherited or acquired, sometimes unexpectedly – bites from one type of tick have been linked to the onset of a meat allergy, and a woman who recently received a lung transplant also contracted it. peanut allergy from her organ donor.
In fact, the development of food allergies in adulthood occurs more frequently than expected, scientists reported. They learned from surveys that about 48 percent of subjects who had food allergies first experienced at least one of them as adults.
“We were surprised to find that food allergies in adults were so common,” Gupta said.
If a person suspects a food allergy, it is essential that they see a doctor for testing and diagnosis before attempting to correct the problem by eliminating foods from their diet, Gupta said in the statement.
“If the food allergy is confirmed, it is also essential to understand the management, including recognizing the symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine,” he added.