When I was growing up, food allergies were practically unheard of. I had a friend of a friend … of a friend, who knew someone with a peanut allergy, and the very few of us who were born with milk allergies were told not to worry, that was “just an infant problem.” Yet according to a new study from the CDC, food allergies are on the rise, and can no longer be ignored. Approximately 4% of 100 U.S. kids (under the age of 18) are living with food allergies. This is an 18% increase over the decade prior …
While it was recently discovered that food allergies are not outgrown as quickly as once believed, the CDC admits that “food allergies do appear to be continuously increasing over the decade.” Prior studies only collected data on peanut allergy, so this new study, which reviewed the top eight food allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shelfish, wheat, and soy), was an eye opener. Their data was collected from a National Health Interview Survey, which included a sampling of roughly 9500 kids in 2007 and a National Hospital Discharge Survey that pooled 270,000 inpatient records from approximately 500 hospitals.
The peanut-, egg-, dairy-, and tree nut-free icing on the cake is that these food allergic kids also seem to be at double the risk for asthma and triple the risk of skin and respiratory symptoms over their non-allergic peers. 29% of kids with food allergies also have asthma, compared to just 12% of their non-allergic friends; 27% of kids with food allergies live with skin reactions such as eczema, compared to only 8% of non-allergic kids; and more than 30% of kids with food allergies have respiratory complaints, compared to just 9% of non-allergic kids.
While the exact cause of this increase in food allergies is unknown, some interesting trends have been observed. Peanut allergies have risen not only in the U.S., but also in countries that follow similar Westernized diets. Though kids in China eat peanuts as readily as Americans, they boil or fry them, while we dry roast them. Researchers state that the high temperature of dry roasting does make peanuts alter in ways that may make them more allergenic.
This information comes from the October 22, 2008 CDC report, "Food Allergy Among U.S. Children: Trends in Prevalence and Hospitalizations."