One in ten adults in US has food allergy, but nearly one in five think they do

allergy
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Over 10 percent of adults in the U.S.—over 26 million—are estimated to have food allergy, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open that was led by Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University. However, researchers found that 19 percent of adults think they are currently food allergic, although their reported symptoms are inconsistent with a true food allergy, which can trigger a life-threatening reaction. Results are based on a nationally representative survey of over 40,000 adults.

"While we found that one in 10 have , nearly twice as many adults think that they are allergic to foods, while their symptoms may suggest food intolerance or other food related conditions," says lead author Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, from Lurie Children's, who also is a Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet. If food allergy is confirmed, understanding the management is also critical, including recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine."

Researchers discovered that only half of adults with convincing had a physician-confirmed diagnosis, and less than 25 percent reported a current epinephrine prescription.

Researchers also found that nearly half of food-allergic adults developed at least one of their food allergies as an adult.

"We were surprised to find that adult-onset food allergies were so common," says Dr. Gupta. "More research is needed to understand why this is occurring and how we might prevent it."

The data indicate that the most prevalent food allergens among U.S. adults are shellfish (affecting 7.2 million adults), milk (4.7 million), peanut (4.5 million), tree nut (3 million), fin fish (2.2 million), egg (2 million), wheat (2 million), soy (1.5 million), and sesame (.5 million).

"Our data show that shellfish is the top food allergen in adults, that shellfish allergy commonly begins in adulthood, and that this allergy is remarkably common across the lifespan," says Dr. Gupta. "We need more studies to clarify why shellfish allergy appears to be so common and persistent among U.S. adults."


Explore further

One in five kids with food allergies treated in emergency department in past year

More information: JAMA Network Open (2019). jamanetwork.com/journals/jaman … etworkopen.2018.5630
Journal information: JAMA Network Open

Provided by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
Citation: One in ten adults in US has food allergy, but nearly one in five think they do (2019, January 4) retrieved 14 October 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-01-ten-adults-food-allergy.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
57 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jan 04, 2019
Meanwhile it has been perceived that allergies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scale of food intolerance we now see. Many food intolerances can be traced to the damaging effect of wheat, herbicides and other pollutants on the gut by causing "leaky gut" which allows foods into the bloodstream that cause the immune system to develop allergic reactions. We really should address the scale of pollution and the use of herbicides along with the choice of a poor grain based diet.

Jan 04, 2019
Among other things, many don't understand the difference between "intolerance", usually involving digestion, and "allergy", which involves the immune system. Many get a slight reaction of any kind and call themselves "allergic". Some could have gotten a reaction for drinking milk while agitated, gotten a slight reaction, then declared themselves "lactose intolerant" and never touched milk again. And soy milk companies got rich. Now, after years of refusing to reveal it, and after so many were likely harmed, it's mentioned that someone might have a reaction only to one protein in milk. But, then, they probably didn't have the means to remove that one protein before. Now, they hope to get rich. And it's being revealed that gluten is nowhere near as dangerous as claimed. After companies got rich. It also has to be invoked that, likely, many are so dim that they can be easily talked into hypochondria over anything, and the companies get rich.

Jan 14, 2019
Emphasis misplaced. Terms allergic vs intolerant probably still not granular enough*, but is assinine to act like there is always some important difference. Server allergy is bad, but 'intolerance' is also big problem. Headline almost seems like is tailor-made for physicians to dismiss patient's concerns. *Is semantic issue. "Allergy" could, and probably should, refer to more than one mechanism of reaction. "Subtle" reactions can still cause significant problems over time. Just because you don't have 'severe' symptoms does not mean it might not be a big problem. And it seems even the SAME type of reaction CAN vary and generally DO vary in severity to the point to which some might claim it is 'not really' an allergy, but it is, and is still a problem.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more