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The Food Allergy Epidemic

As I've posted elsewhere on these boards, a recent guest from Singapore commented on the "unusual" prevalence of food allergies among her classmates at an Eastern college she attended as an exchange student in the fall. In a country of five million people, the incidence of these allergies is virtually unknown there.

Here's a report that offers a highly likely explanation for food and other allergies among the US population.


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  1. Not surprising at all. The entire EU, Australia, Japan, the UK, Russia, China and India all require labeling - why the hell don't we?

    "European law dictates that any food containing more than 0.9% genetically engineered ingredients be labeled as containing GMOs. It’s a freedom to choose. Clean food is a right that should be afforded to all Americans, not just those who can afford to opt out and purchase foods labeled “non-GMO” or “USDA Organic”."

    And that is what most people want - the freedom to choose. It's insane that it's not. It's way past time to give us this choice. There's no need for all this extra crap to be in our food supply. These allergies weren't anywhere near as prevalent one and two generations ago, and virtually non-existent further back.

    1. I've had some very heated discussions on CH about this issue. Most of them became heated bc they were very unkind words written by others about what to do with my allergic child, like "you should homeschool him" type of sentiments.

      Anyway, I truly like Robyn O'Brien's work and pretty much agree with her in all her POV's. However, I do think it's an alignment of stars to produce the allergic child. My husband was allergic to dairy when he was a baby. I'm allergic to pit fruit and japanese mountain yam which isn't really eaten in this country. my mother is allergic to shellfish and soy (pure soy like edamame but not shoyu). So I do think it's part hereditary combined with GMO consumption. As I was pregnant I don't think I consumed much GMO's as I'm a farmers market/Whole Foods type of person. However, I did shoot up Insulin 3-4 times a day due to gestational Diabetes. I found out later during some research that GMO's can be in insulin. I was part of a allergy mom group back in my old home town and 3/4 of us had gestational diabetes. However, how do you explain the neighbor who only eats packaged mac and cheese and McDonalds types of food to produce a human with no food allergies? And those with GD who produce kids with no allergies? Again, it's how all of it aligns and comes together.

      People say it's bc we live in such a antibacterial society and we no longer live on farms. Well, I just started using those sanitizers recently and how do you explain the millions of people with no allergies who never lived on farms? oh, and I did eat nuts while pregnant as well.

      The good part of all this is that I now have no choice but to feed my son pure foods. tonight was beef bourguignon with rice and salad. I don't take shortcuts and make sure the beef, rice, wine etc is all organic etc. We don't do cake mixes and get much takeout. He's outgrown soy, dairy, egg, almonds, walnut, pecan, hazelnuts which is a giant relief for his sake.

      They do need to start labeling for GMO's. We moved to Boulder, CO where there is an independent store called Alfalfa's that labels for possible GMO's. It would be great to see others do the same.

      3 Replies
      1. re: trolley

        I agree, Trolley, It's very complicated and different for everyone. Given what you have had to deal with, I think you have a pretty good attitude and your boy is very lucky that you "get it."

        Given the huge leap in food allergies in the last five years, it is hard to deny that something is going on. I don't know if I buy the hygiene hypothesis or eating peanuts while you're pregnant, but I do know that peanut oil is a carrier in childhood vaccines and there has been a lot of research done on linking all these factors together.

        The pre-emptive move by the Grocery Manufacturers to lobby for a weak labeling law will probably pass in some form. It will grandfather in a lot of undesirable additives and will invalidate any individual state's labeling law, but it is a start. People are beginning to wake up to the enormous control these agri chemical companies have over our health and our lives. The best we can do is what you're doing. Try to purchase or grow as many raw materials as is possible and try to keep your contamination to a minimum.

        1. re: sandiasingh

          well, the vaccine thing...then why doesn't every kid who gets the vaccine develop a peanut allergy? the same idea as the germ thing. and again it's the stars that align. not everyone will develop this as I do think it's part genetics and part GMO's. I always belong to some kind of support group bc the hate that we receive is everywhere. I know it's hard to believe, bc i would never expect anyone to hate others for their disabilities. but people feel very strongly about their rights to eat nuts in America. I recently was introduced to a mom and when she found out my child had food allergies she became very hostile. you should see the internet comments on "allergy" articles. I've also been piled on here on CH so i'm very shy now to discuss it amongst "non allergy" groups.

          1. re: trolley

            I would send the hostile mom this article. It is not a judgment call to be made. Our bodies are rejecting the industrial food products that we have always thought to be safe or within reason, but that's when the FDA and the USDA worked efficiently. They no longer do. We're on our own here and have to either educate ourselves or go merrily along our way whistling in the dark.

            Some people are born with genes that provide life long health and others of us are canaries in the coal mine.

            Sorry to hear our fellow CHers have been tough on this issue, but not too surprised. I posted some GMO articles a couple of years ago and was either lambasted or ignored, so I opted out. I am no longer interested in debating the issue. I know too much.

            Unless you have walked in someone else's shoes, it's easy to throw stones (how's that for a mixed metaphor?) :-)

      2. There is, however, a big difference between prevalence and incidence. Most doctors agree that apparent prevalence has risen because of better diagnostic tools and increased awareness of allergies in the medical community. In other words, allergies are being diagnosed more frequently. That is not proof that the actual incidence (rate of occurence compared to births) has risen. Not proof the other way either, but just sayin' ... these loose "correlations" that people with agendas make are not proof one way or the other.

        1. EU membership may have led to allergy increase in rural Poland

          less contact with farm animals is suspected.

          More on that rural/urban allergy thesis

          Interesting map - why are allergy rates higher in Florida and Georgia, and lower in North Dakota and Montana?

          1 Reply
          1. re: paulj

            Funny! :) The rural/urban thing is interesting. I grew up on a farm and one of my 3 siblings (1 out of 4) was allergic to sawdust and animal dander. He is now grown with kids and manages the farm, the allergies long forgotten.

            And in my personal experience, the majority of people I know who have allergies are urban folk, with very limited or no contact with animals, dirt, untreated wood products, natural water sources (creeks, rivers, ponds, standing rain water, etc) and so on.

            1. In contrast to the Prevention article (Jan 2014), the Reuters summary of the JAMA study (April 2013) does not speculate about GMOs.

              "Conclusions and Relevance: Children born outside the United States have a lower prevalence allergic disease that increases after residing in the United States for 1 decade."

              6 Replies
              1. re: paulj

                But interestingly, the Reuters article (and anyone can post a press release to Reuters) gives only one link as a source - which is not a direct link to an article or study, only a link to a website's list of articles, and the link has NO articles associated with the date given, and in fact that website appears to have only 2 articles from 2012, and then articles from January 2014 forward.

                I would love to see more articles on allergy prevalence, but I'm looking for credible sources, and not finding any associated with this article.

                1. re: Mary Baker

                  Based on the lead researcher's name, the 'scholars' article that I linked is the one cited by Reuters as

                  SOURCE: bit.ly/KEGTVv JAMA Pediatrics, online April 29, 2013.

                  1. re: Mary Baker

                    ScienceDaily is one place to look:

                    It's not perfect. Often its summaries are based on material released by university PR departments, the same material that Reuters, CNN, etc work from. But they are less likely to sensationalize it. They also cover many more articles, with 'related links', giving a broader picture of where the research is going.

                    Pubmed is another source
                    Most of us nonprofessionals can only see the abstracts and citations.

                    I also look up specific researchers (mentioned in one of these sources). They often have descriptions of their research interests, more citations, even an occasional full article.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Thank you for this information. Invaluable!

                    2. re: Mary Baker

                      via Pubmed and the journal webpage:
                      Food allergy: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment
                      Scott H. Sicherer, MD, Hugh A. Sampson, MD 2014

                      Accurate determinations of food allergy prevalence are elusive because factors such as allergy definitions, study populations, methodologies, geographic variation, ages, dietary exposures, and other factors influence the estimates.10 A comprehensive review of the literature concluded that “food allergy affects more than 1% to 2% but less than 10% of the population” and that it remains unclear whether the prevalence is increasing."

                      Some phone survey, numbers are as high as 8%. But self-reporting (or parent reporting) is not very reliable. (link in http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9305...)

                      In one survey:
                      Cow's milk (2.2%), peanut (1.8%), and tree nuts (1.7%) were the most common allergens in children, and shellfish (1.9%), fruits (1.6%), and vegetables (1.3%) were the most common allergens in adults.

                      1. re: paulj

                        May I ask why you have an interest in this topic?

                  2. Prevention is not an authoritative source of health information, and this article is a good example why. It mixes pseudoscience with scientific data to promote its own agenda, in this case its opposition to genetically engineered crops.

                    Here's a better report from an objective and scientific source:


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: GH1618

                      Interesting and I have *no* idea if there's any correlation at all, but the chart at the bottom of that article could just as well be describing the factors that seem indicate relative prevalence of Crohn's disease (also related to a screwed up immune system), too.