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Worldwide rise in food allergies

Since the 1920s, industrialised countries have seen a significant rise in food allergies. Today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) places allergies as the fourth largest issue for public health.

Rise in food allergies
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Between 1.8 and 4% of the European population is affected by food allergies. In Europe, almost one in every three children is likely to present allergenic symptoms at one moment or another. A food allergy can present itself in different ways, from a simple spot on the skin to life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

5% of chronic skin condition sufferers have a food allergy. Food allergy’s influence on asthma is also underestimated and could in fact be the cause of 4 to 8% of adult asthma and up to 17% of asthma in young children. In children under four, 40% of eczema cases are linked to food allergy. Definitely worth thinking about!

Allergies and early weaning

Until the age of 15, the most frequent food allergies (53% of cases) are caused by animal-based foods, the major culprit being eggs. They are responsible for 34.2% of food allergies within this age group, followed by cow’s milk. In general, children are most allergic to animal proteins while adults are more affected by fruit and vegetable allergies. 

With one major exception: peanuts. This allergen severely affects young people today. Sensitisation during pregnancy, diversifying baby’s diet too early and cow’s milk based feeding seem largely responsible for the increase in childhood food allergies. The preventative effects of breast-feeding a baby during the first six months of life have now been proven, and if breast-feeding is not possible, it is preferable to use a hypoallergenic brand of baby milk.

Any food can cause an allergy

In general, to make a diagnosis, the physician will need to go through the following procedures with you, at the very least:

  • a precise and detailed physical examination
  • an analysis of all food eaten during one week (a food diary)
  • an analysis of the labels of all processed foods eaten during that week
  • an analysis of skin tests carried out on at least thirty suspected allergens
  • a blood test

Once the guilty foods have been identified, there is only one foolproof solution available – removing these foods from your diet. Not always an easy thing to do…

Posted 10.01.2011

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