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ALLERGIES in adulthood

Food allergies are making the headlines as a huge rise in the number of cases among adults points to a shift in our food culture. Jo Waters investigates

Why more of us are suffering

ALLERGIC REACTIONS TO FOOD aren’t new, but how and when they affect us seems to be changing. In the past, food allergies most commonly affected children and teenagers, and most grew out of them. But anecdotal evidence from doctors and studies are now showing otherwise. ‘An increasing number of children are not outgrowing their allergies as they used to,’ says Amena Warner, head of clinical services at charity Allergy UK. While there are no official figures for the numbers affected in the UK, a US study published in JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) this year, indicates that 28 million US adults have food allergies, with nearly half of them developing after the age of 18. ‘Adults appear to be spontaneously developing allergies more often,’ says Dr Jenna Macciochi, lecturer in immunology at the University of Sussex.

CELERY

Multiple food allergies

‘WE’RE SEEING A RISE in socalled “super allergies”, too,’ says Amena. ‘People who have hayfever caused by birch pollen, for example, often react to certain fruits such as apples, pears and cherries.’ This is a condition called oral allergy syndrome (see p28), which can cause tingly lips, a scratchy throat and itchy mouth. Although oral allergy symptoms are usually confined to the mouth, in 1.2% of cases people can develop anaphylaxis – a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction to an allergy trigger.

‘Generally, we’re finding more people getting multiple allergies – it’s not about one thing any more,’ says Amena. People with a peanut allergy, for instance, may also be affected by lupin, as these seeds share similar proteins with peanuts. Lupin is often used in bread, pasta and pastries and in wheat-free and gluten-free foods. In the same way, one in four of those allergic to peanuts may also be affected by sesame seeds. ‘Cross-reactivity allergies are getting more problematic,’ says Amena. ‘For example, in both the US and UK, people who have developed allergies to tick bites from the Lone Star tick have developed cross-reactivity with red meat. This can cause allergy symptoms such as itchy skin, runny nose and headaches, but can also result in anaphylaxis.’

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About Healthy Food Guide

Is your diet missing the essential nutrient for better heart health? New research pinpoints the foods to include every day, and our heart-friendly diet plan makes it easy. We investigate the rise of food allergies among adults, with free-from cooking tips, gluten-free bakes and best buys, plus we put plant-based ‘sausages’ and spreads to the test. And, if you’re struggling to lose weight, find out why your partner could be to blame…