Monday, August 20, 2007

Food Allergies on Today on ABC

This morning's Today Show was just discussing the rising incidence of food allergies in America. Everything from peanut allergies to shellfish, milk, eggs, wheat, and soy make up the top few food allergies these days. The episode didn't particularly mention gluten allergies, but with wheat being in the top few dietary things people are allergic too, I have to wonder if they just covered gluten by calling it "wheat" (especially since the iVillage Health Journal food allergy article referenced from the Today Show web page clearly discussed gluten, vs. just "wheat").

According to the show, the incidence of food allergies in the USA has doubled in last 10 years and it is becoming a major public health problem. There are now a full 12 millions Americans with food allergies, 4.3 million of which are children. As for what is causing this fast rise in allergies... that seems open to debate. One doctor from Mt. Sinai New York Hospital mentioned the hygiene hypothesis, which essentially posits that we are not getting enough or appropriate bacteria exposure these days with the advent of so many antibiotic soaps, etc. There was also a quick mention of potential genetic predispositions and perhaps Global food supply being to blame.

Regarding the permanence of an allergy, currently 80% of those with egg and milk allergies eventually outgrow the condition, but only 20% of persons with a peanut allergy outgrow it. Kids on the interview were already accepting the fact they may have to deal with these allergies for life. I feel bad for anyone that has to avoid foods for life, like all of us gluten-free and Celiac Disease sufferers, but I feel even more so for those that have to carry EpiPens (epinephrine injection pens) in case they experience anaphylaxis from accidental exposure to their allergic triggers. That must be just awful worrying about being unable to breath if you come into contact with an allergen!

Overall the Today Show piece was rather weak with regards to content or detail. It was definitely just a super-high-level discussion of food allergy prevalence in America. But, I still found it interesting to hear the numbers nonetheless. I figured I'd mention in here on the Gluten-Free Blog just in case anyone wanted to go check it out.


C.L. Jahn said...

I've been working on my family tree, and what I'm discovering is that some health problems that we understand today simply weren't diagnosed "back then."
So I don't think it's a case of Americans suddenly having all these allergies, but rather that we now have the tools and training to detect them. In other words, the same percentages have ALWAYS had these allergies, but no one understood the causes of their condition.

Mike Eberhart said...

c.l., I am with you on your thinking, aside from perhaps the possibility of more modern allergens that *may* exist, like pesticides and various household chemicals and environmental pollutants that did not exist in the past.

But, otherwise, I'd guess a similar number of people that were exposed the the same type of foods in the past were allergic to those foods as they are now. Though, I have read various research that suggests long-term (multi-generational) exposure to gluten is what makes the problem so much more likely in persons of Northern European descent. Someday, perhaps we will definitively know all the answers. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Lynn Barry said...

I know you know I am a believer in finding out what things you should avoid to feel the best you can feel. I am so high on it I have to remind myself now and then about how poor my quality of lfe used to be when I ate everything. My life was a mess healthwise and now I feel so good I almost don't think I deserve to...HUGS Thanks for the info.