According to a recent consumer report, many people think that they have food sensitivities, and adjust their diet accordingly, when they actually do not. This is surprising news for those with severe food allergies, who know what a hassle it can be to constantly avoid a certain food. Yet many people apparently believe they have a food intolerance when they really don't, says the
Hugh Sampson, director of the Mount Sinai Medical Center's Food Allergy Institute, explains that “Research shows that as many as 20 percent of people claim to have food allergies when the number is actually around 3 to 4 percent.” While he also notes that some people have milder, nonallergic reactions to certain foods, he still thinks that the rate of food allergies is overestimated.
Why do so many people incorrectly believe that they have food allergies? One issue is that it is possible to 'grow out of' allergies. While reactions to food can change over time, often people don't realize that they are no longer allergic because they never consume the food in question. And sometimes, people mistakenly attribute their symptoms to a certain food when the problem is actually something else.
While food allergy rates may be lower than some believe, there is little dispute that this rate is on the rise. A 2010 report comparing allergy rates in 1997, 2002 and 2008 found a steady rise in peanut allergies among kids. The reason for rising food allergy rates remains unclear, but may be tied to new methods of allergy detection and higher rates of food allergen testing.