Published on January 25th, 2012 | by Kim LaCapria0
Food Allergies May Often Be Exaggerated, Study Finds
While about 20% of the population claim to be allergic to certain foods- most commonly shellfish, tree nuts, dairy or peanuts- only three to four percent of Americans actually suffer from food allergies, a new study has revealed.
Food allergies are an immune response linked with consuming foods that are triggering, and can result in symptoms ranging from respiratory discomfort to digestive distress- and they can even be fatal in severe cases. But while researchers admit food sensitivities might be widespread, food allergies are far rarer, and are likely widely overstated as a danger among Americans overall.
Consumer Reports talked to Hugh Sampson, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. Sampson was quoted by the Washington Post about the issue of food allergy panic, and he says confusion is in part why many believe they have food allergies when they do not:
“Research shows that as many as 20 percent of people claim to have food allergies when the number is actually around 3 to 4 percent,” says Hugh Sampson, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He concedes that the number of people with milder reactions — nonallergic symptoms that flare up when they eat certain foods — is higher, but he thinks the problem is still generally overestimated. That’s partly because reactions to food can change over time. And various symptoms are sometimes mistakenly attributed to food when they really stem from something else.
It was noted, however, that actual allergy to peanuts and tree nuts has spiked in children over the past decade, and the reason behind the sudden uptick is not known.