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The Increasing Prevalence of Food Allergies

As a growing public health concern, food allergies have drastically increased over the past years. It is estimated by the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) that 15 million people suffer from food allergies in the United States alone. In the United Kingdom, up to 50% of children are diagnosed with an allergic condition of some sort. The symptoms tend to include itching, eczemas, swelling of the face and other parts of the body, as well as nausea, vomiting, dizziness and troubled breathing. The most common allergy causing foods, which account for 90% of all allergic reactions, are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Between 1997 and 2011, food allergies have increased by approximately 50% among children.

Allergies are often defined as malefactions of the immune system which then cause a reaction to a normally harmless substances called allergens. The certain allergen then binds to the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. This triggers a mast cell to break open and release histamine, a inflammatory substance. This travels around the body, affecting the body tissue and causing an inflammation. People who suffer from allergies have an increased number of IgE in their blood. It is important to regularly measure these amounts in order to predict the chances of suffering from food allergies.

Dietary and environmental factors are both said to increase allergy risks due to the regulation in genes which promote the allergic-type immune system. This is shown by the statistics, showing a rapid increase in food allergies over a short period of time. The hygiene hypotheses states that decreasing incidence of infections in western countries, and more recently in developing countries, is at the origin of the increasing incidence of both autoimmune and allergic diseases. These studies conducted by Okada et al is based upon epidemiological data and the proof of the principle that is brought by animal models, and to a lesser degree by intervention trials in humans.

Other hypotheses include changes in how people are exposed to the allergens which are not limited to food, such as creams and other cosmetics in general. Some researchers suggest that exposing the body to potential allergens through skin creams may lead to the development of food allergies, but only in the people with initial risk of allergies.

Unfortunately, up until now researches have not found a cure for food allergies. Avoidance of the food allergens, as well as early recognition to one’s body against certain foods is the key to preventing serious health repercussions.

Es., and 2. 3. 1. Food Allergy Facts and Statistics for the U.S. (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
“Facts and Statistics – Food Allergy Research & Education.” Facts and Statistics – Food Allergy Research & Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2016.
Okada, H., C. Kuhn, H. Feillet, and J-F Bach. “The ‘hygiene Hypothesis’ for Autoimmune and Allergic Diseases: An Update.” Clinical and Experimental Immunology. Blackwell Science Inc, Apr. 2010. Web. 21 July 2016.
“The Science behind Allergy.” – Phadia. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2016.
Edited by: Arselyne Chery and Shreya Singireddy