Half the People Who Believe They Have a Food Allergy Don’t

Many people needlessly avoid certain foods while some who are actually allergic don't have access to meds.

Not all perceived "allergies" are actually real, according to a new study. (Getty Images)
Getty Images

The number of adults who think they have a food allergy is almost double the total of those who actually have one, new research has revealed.

What’s more alarming is that many who are actually allergic to certain foods don’t have access to life-saving medication, should they have a serious reaction, The Guardian reported.

Almost 11% of American adults are realistically allergic to a particular food, according to the study. That’s roughly 26 million people. And nearly half of those allergies developed in adulthood.

“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 – so what changed in their environment or in them that caused them to now develop this food allergy?” the study’s co-author, Ruchi Gupta, said.

Over 40,000 volunteers for the research were asked if they had a food allergy and were questioned about their reactions and diagnoses. The scientists then assessed whether the reported allergy, whether diagnosed or not, was “convincing” – for example if the participant had experienced symptoms such as throat tightening or vomiting.

“If they only had, say, bloating or stomach pain or diarrhea then we took them out because that could be a lactose intolerance or a food intolerance,” Gupta said.

The most common “convincing” allergy was to shellfish, affecting 2.9% of adults, with milk and peanuts in second and third place, affecting 1.9% and 1.8% of adults, respectively. But while 10.8% of participants had at least one “convincing” food allergy, almost twice as many — 19% — believed they had such a problem.

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