Prompted by a question from one of their readers, the Washington Post has dived into the details surrounding food allergies, posting a view on what may be behind the dramatic increase in incidence seen in recent years.
In reviewing available scientific evidence and speaking with allergy experts, Washington Post staff writer Andrew Van Dam highlights several interesting details about food allergies, including the fact that boys and girls are equally likely to have food allergies, but as both age past puberty, food allergies among women grow much more common, especially in middle age. And, while women are more likely to be allergic to fruits and berries, men are more likely to have peanut allergies.
Infants and toddlers are much more likely to be allergic to cow’s milk products than older people, yet the reverse is true for shellfish. Shellfish is the most common allergy among adults, followed by milk, peanuts, and tree nuts such as almonds and walnuts. The biological similarity between dust mites and shellfish is blamed for allergy to the latter developing in adulthood.
Theories about what is behind the large increases in food allergy prevalence include the concept that human immune systems have become too sensitive because many parasites that used to keep their function in-check have now been eradicated. Or perhaps children are being raised in such over-protected environments where exposure to allergens is limited, that they are prevented from developing immune tolerance.
The importance of the skin barrier and the links between eczema and the development of childhood food allergy are expanded upon, with reference to “a remarkable study out of Australia” which showed children who developed eczema the earliest and most severely were most likely to develop food allergy.
Read the full article on the Washington Post website.