Did you know it's  Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network week? Founded in 1991, FAAN was created with the goal of increasing public awareness and education about allergies and to advance research in that area. While I've thankfully never been diagnosed with a food  allergy, or even an intolerance, I'm incredibly intreagued by allergies and the way they are treated. In a VDA session I attended this spring, I became competely enthralled and am in the process about learning ways to become a specialist as a registered dietitian.

So what are the numbers on allergies?

  • Roughly 4% of the US population has a true food allergy.
  • Between 1997-2008 the number of nut allergies in children trippled.
  • General food allergies in children have increased 18% since 1997.
Why does it seem like there are more allergies?
The LA Times called food allergies a 'yuppie invention' while another publication insisted it is a scam. Food allergies are no hoax! A possible explanation is the hygiene hypothesis which contends that our society may be excessively sterile, decreasing our immune systems' ability to fight.  If you look at nations with the highest allergy rates (UK, Germany, Canada, Japan) they all share our obsession with cleanliness. While no one knows for sure yet, it's an interesting thought.
What are the most common allergies?
Milk,egg, wheat, soy, and nuts are the most common allergies, but emerging allergies include mustard and sesame.
Even if you don't have an allergy, you may find that our nation's high number of food allergies sneaks into your every day life. No more peanuts on airplanes, or in schools. Some baseball stadiums even offer peanut free sections!  Packages contain warnings about cross contamination, or even state the obvious (On a peanut bag: Warning, may contain nuts). But research and development has come out with some amazing substitutes for allergins in foods and treatment because of it. Later this year be on the look out for a redesigned Epi-Pen, shaped like a credit card for easy carrying. You'll also be likely to see articles about the use of a new treatment in which patients are given miniscule amounts of their allergen to build up a resistance.
Have you had any experiences with allergies?