Food allergies are a serious concern, and many people believe they have them. However, a recent study found that 50 percent of all adults who think they have a food allergy really don’t have one. The study also found that many of the adults who do have food allergies did not develop them until adulthood, which proves that not all allergies begin in childhood.
“This is really concerning because chances are, they could eat the food, and then all of a sudden, they have a reaction to a food that they could previously tolerate,” said Ruchi Gupta, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University and a co-author of the research. “So what changed in their environment or in them that caused them to now develop this food allergy?”
Other experts believe that the rise in adult food allergies could be related to a rise in childhood allergies, as well. Doctors have been focusing most of their studies on children’s allergies. As a result, few are doing the necessary research to learn more about adult allergies.
“We have been focusing efforts and concerns about food allergy in children, and this study is telling us there is a very significant burden of food-allergic disease in adults and we ought to be directing more attention and resources towards diagnosing and treating those adults,” said Gideon Lack, a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London.
In 2015, researchers at Northwestern University set out to change this and conducted a study of 40,000 adults. The adults were asked if they have a food allergy and then asked about their diagnosis and the severity of their reactions to the food. Researchers were looking for signs of a legitimate allergy, such as throat tightening or vomiting. Participants who said they had stomach pain or simply didn’t feel well after eating the food were taken out.
The study found that shellfish is the most common food allergy among adults(2.9%), followed by milk (1.9%) and peanuts (1.8%). Of the people who claimed to have real food allergies, 38 percent of them had been to the hospital because of the food allergy. In addition, 48 percent had been diagnosed with the allergy. Twenty-five percent of them had a prescription for adrenaline as a treatment.
The study found that many people who claim to have an allergy have not been diagnosed by a doctor. This could mean they do not actually have food allergies and are avoiding certain foods for no reason.