Changing patterns of food allergy in Singapore

Changing Food Pattern in Singapore

While some countries, especially those in the Western world, are reporting a food allergy epidemic, the pattern of food allergy in Singapore until now suggests such an epidemic may not hit that nation. Food allergy rates are reported to be more than 10% in challenge-proven studies among Australian infants. Estimates from historical studies and those currently in progress indicate that overall, self-reported food allergy prevalence in Singapore is around 5%. However, peanut allergy is increasing in prevalence and is now the most common cause of anaphylaxis in Singaporean children, whereas it was an absent cause of food anaphylaxis 14 years ago.

Galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS) is a prebiotic found in most milk formulas in Asia, Europe and the USA. Allergy to GOS is a recently described phenomenon unique to Singapore and its neighbouring South-East Asian countries. It typically presents in older children and adults with no prior cow’s milk allergy. Patients suddenly develop anaphylaxis (rash and wheeze) after ingesting GOS-containing milk formula or product. The reasons for these changing patterns of food allergy in Singapore are yet to be established.

While rates of shellfish allergy are high in Singapore, perhaps due to the high rate of shellfish consumption there, the rates of egg, milk and fish allergies remain low. However, given the patterns of some food allergies in Singapore have changed over the last decade, studies analysing lifestyle practices are necessary in order for practitioners to understand what can be done to maintain the relatively low prevalence of food allergy in that country.

Reference: Lee & Shek. 2014. Singapore Medical Journal. Vol 55(5) pp 244-247 Doi:10.11622/smedj.2014065

Available for free access: http://sma.org.sg/UploadedImg/files/SMJ/5505/5505ra1.pdf