Food Allergies: All In The Mind?

Does anyone over the age of, say, 30 feel as though the amount of people claiming allergies to all kinds of foods has spread like wildfire, whereas when you were a kid hardly anyone had a food allergy? I thought that the proliferation had to be due to environmental changes, particularly various man-made toxins and pollution of our food, water and air, but according to this New York Times story, many of these people aren’t allergic at all:

Many who think they have food allergies actually do not.

A new report, commissioned by the federal government, finds the field is rife with poorly done studies, misdiagnoses and tests that can give misleading results.

The ubiquitous EpiPen, carried everywhere by those with food allergies. Photo: Sean WIlliam (CC)

The ubiquitous EpiPen, carried everywhere by those with food allergies. Photo: Sean WIlliam (CC)

While there is no doubt that people can be allergic to certain foods, with reproducible responses ranging from a rash to a severe life-threatening reaction, the true incidence of food allergies is only about 8 percent for children and less than 5 percent for adults, said Dr. Marc Riedl, an author of the new paper and an allergist and immunologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Yet about 30 percent of the population believe they have food allergies. And, Dr. Riedl said, about half the patients coming to his clinic because they had been told they had a food allergy did not really have one.

Dr. Riedl does not dismiss the seriousness of some people’s responses to foods. But, he says, “That accounts for a small percentage of what people term ‘food allergies.’ ”

Even people who had food allergies as children may not have them as adults. People often shed allergies, though no one knows why. And sometimes people develop food allergies as adults, again for unknown reasons.

For their report, Dr. Riedl and his colleagues reviewed all the papers they could find on food allergies published between January 1988 and September 2009 — more than 12,000 articles. In the end, only 72 met their criteria, which included having sufficient data for analysis and using more rigorous tests for allergic responses.

“Everyone has a different definition” of a food allergy, said Dr. Jennifer J. Schneider Chafen…

[continues in the New York Times]

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  • justagirl

    oh! it IS so annoying at school. “don't bring peanuts anywhere near this classroom! just the very presence of the peanut will make so and so swell up and seizure into a peanut coma!!”

    • 5by5

      Yeah.

      Almost as annoying as the huge welts that blistered my skin when a kid at school didn't believe the allergy was real and smeared peanut butter on my arm. Hilarious.

      Or the oxygen I had to have on a recent flight because the airline ignored my no-peanut request for the flight, and 150 people cracked open all those peanut bags simultaneously into an enclosed airspace with recycled air. That was fun too.

      I'm certain there are misdiagnoses, but I'm also certain that Live Science is now reporting that peanut allergies specifically have tripled in the last 10 years:

      http://www.livescience.com/health/peanut-allerg

      I'm not saying there's no crazy out there, but sure as hell not in most cases. My first adverse reaction happened when I was 15 months old, so I seriously doubt I'd bought into some “propaganda” at that point.

      So you have to forego consuming your precious PBJ so some other kid doesn't go into toxic shock — oh the horror you must endure…… poor dear. Pfft.

      • justagirl

        poor dear indeed. (i mean you of course).
        did you really request the entire flight to not eat peanuts? (did you have euphoria during pure oxygen intake? i heard it was euphoric, but i never had euphoria during such times). did you get the thumbs up that there would not be peanuts on the flight – so you were comfortable going? or did you just assume they would grant your request? pretty presumptuous if you did. it must have broken your mother's heart at 15 months – gracious! are you better now? did you or your big brothers beat that kid up that put peanut butter on you? do tell! do!
        anyway, i never said it was funny, you did.
        do you laugh at despair?

  • justagirl

    poor dear indeed. (i mean you of course).
    did you really request the entire flight to not eat peanuts? (did you have euphoria during pure oxygen intake? i heard it was euphoric, but i never had euphoria during such times). did you get the thumbs up that there would not be peanuts on the flight – so you were comfortable going? or did you just assume they would grant your request? pretty presumptuous if you did. it must have broken your mother’s heart at 15 months – gracious! are you better now? did you or your big brothers beat that kid up that put peanut butter on you? do tell! do!
    anyway, i never said it was funny, you did.
    do you laugh at despair?

  • justagirl

    poor dear indeed. (i mean you of course).
    did you really request the entire flight to not eat peanuts? (did you have euphoria during pure oxygen intake? i heard it was euphoric, but i never had euphoria during such times). did you get the thumbs up that there would not be peanuts on the flight – so you were comfortable going? or did you just assume they would grant your request? pretty presumptuous if you did. it must have broken your mother's heart at 15 months – gracious! are you better now? did you or your big brothers beat that kid up that put peanut butter on you? do tell! do!
    anyway, i never said it was funny, you did.
    do you laugh at despair?