Health&Wellness Magazine May 2016 - Page 45

For advertising information call 859.368.0778 or email | May 2016 & 45 Food Allergies Increasing Worldwide About 15 million Americans have a food allergy By Angela S. Hoover, Staff Writer Food allergies have been on the rise in all industrialized nations, according to the WHO, which bases this assessment on several studies and surveys from researchers. As far back as 2008, the Centers for Disease Control found an 18-percent increase in food allergies in U.S. children. Food allergies are misguided immune reactions to foods that can cause reproducible rapid reactions such as rashes, swelling and breathing problems. Food allergies differ from food intolerances in that they are easier to identify and the reactions are more severe and sometimes even life threatening. The percentage of children with a food allergy increased by about 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, according to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). One in 13 U.S. children, or two per every classroom, has a food allergy. Overall, around 15 million Americans have a food allergy. FARE estimates the cost of just children’s food allergies is nearly $25 billion per year. In Europe, more than 17 million people have food allergies, and hospital admissions for severe reactions in children have risen sevenfold over the past decade, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Globally, eight foods account for 90 percent of all food allergy reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. So what’s behind this? To date, no one knows for sure, but a few theories are being explored. The one that has received the most publicity is the hygiene hypothesis. This postulates that we’re too clean, and therefore our immune system doesn’t have very much to be concerned about. Instead, it overreacts and that results in allergies. Something that propels this hypothesis is the fact that in societies with less stringent hygiene practices, there is a lower prevalence of food allergies. Another theory has been clearly demonstrated. The increase in the prevalence of birth by caesarean section is highly suspected because babies born this way do not acquire Globally, eight foods account for 90 percent of all food allergy reactions. their mothers’ gastrointestinal bacteria as they would during a vaginal birth. The immunities the baby would acquire during the vaginal birthing process are believed to be quite important in preventing the development of food allergies. The last theory has the least proof but is nevertheless being discussed and explored. The change in weaning practices that has occurred over the past three decades seems to be tied to the increase in food allergies. Parents are encouraged to avoid solid foods and wean babies a little bit later in life, sometimes as late as 2 to 3 years old. Some evidence suggests the early introduction of certain kinds of solid foods in a baby’s diet may actually promote tolerance of those foods rather than the development of food allergies. This is contrary to the common practices of later weaning and postponing the introduction of solid and new foods. Recent research in England indicates early ingestion of peanuts may help prevent the development of peanut allergy.