Adult-onset food allergies on the rise

Research presented at the 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) suggests that almost half of U.S. adults with food allergies have developed their condition in adulthood.

The study, led by renown food allergy researcher Dr. Ruchi Gupta, considered a representative sample of 53,575 U.S. adults and revealed that, among adults diagnosed with a food allergy, as many as 45 percent became allergic in adulthood and did not exhibit the same symptoms as children.

Shellfish allergy is the most common type of food allergy seen in adults, making up 3.6 percent of cases – an increase from a reported prevalence rate of 2.0 percent in 2004. Prevalence of tree nut allergy has also increased, from an estimated 0.5 percent in 2008, to 1.8 percent in the current study.

As with children, the incidence of food allergies in adults is rising across all ethnic groups, yet different ethnic groups are more vulnerable to adult-onset in food allergy. Black, Hispanic, and Asian individuals are more likely to develop food allergies in adulthood than the white population, specifically for shellfish and peanuts. Asian adults were 2.1 times more likely to report a shellfish allergy than white adults, and Hispanic adults reported a peanut allergy at 2.3 times the frequency of white adults.

Given the traditional focus on childhood food allergy risks, the study authors issued a reminder for adults to consider food allergy if they experience adverse symptoms to a food and to seek appropriate medical treatment.