Australian Health Survey reveals extent of food allergy

Food Allergy

Recently released figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that almost 4 million people in Australia reported avoiding a food type because of allergy or intolerance. Of those, about 560,000 were children aged between two and 18 years. In this group, girls were more likely than boys to be susceptible. However, about 71,000 boys were reported as having an allergy or intolerance to peanuts, compared with only 39,000 girls.

The data was collected in the Australian Health Survey. The findings indicate that while a significantly greater proportion of boys suffer nut allergies, the reverse appears true for gluten and dairy. More than 35,000 girls reported intolerance to gluten, compared with 14,600 boys. About 4 per cent of girls have a dairy intolerance, compared with 3 per cent of boys.

Commentary related to the release of the statistics included a possible explanation from Australian Medical Association vice-president and consultant immunologist Brad Frankumas of potential causes for the vast gender differences. He has suggested most teenagers who avoided milk and gluten were probably intolerant, rather than allergic, while women were generally more susceptible to food intolerance than men. The medical experts contributing to the commentary were unable to offer suggestions for the continuing rise in prevalence of food allergies in Australia.