More than 10 percent of American adults are allergic to at least one food, a new study suggests.
Among more than 40,000 adults surveyed, 10.8 percent reported the kinds of severe symptoms that are consistent with a food allergy, and another 8.2 percent said they believed they had food allergies, but their symptoms suggested other causes, according to the January 4 report in JAMA Network Open.
“The main message from the survey is that one in five adults have some kind of food related conditions that are causing them to avoid certain foods,” said Dr. Ruchi Gupta of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “And one in 10 has what looks convincingly like a food allergy—and of those, only half are getting a proper diagnosis by a physician.”
To take a closer look at food allergies in adults, Dr. Gupta and her colleagues turned to two internet-based panels of people who have agreed to fill out surveys for a small remuneration: the AmeriSpeak panel and a panel put together by SSI Dynamix, a market research company. All told, 40,433 U.S. adults completed the food allergy survey, for which they received $5 each.
Those deemed to have a food allergy had least one convincing food allergy symptom, which meant a severe reaction involving the skin or oral mucosa, gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular, or respiratory tract.
People who didn’t have these reactions were assumed to have a food intolerance, such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance, or a non-allergy mediated reaction in the mouth.