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source: www.theallergysite.co.uk/



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allergies & intolerances

Food allergy is not common, but can be serious. It differs from food intolerance, which is far more common. Both allergy and intolerance reactions can be caused by added as well as natural substances in foods…
  • food intolerance is a term used to describe a number of abnormal reactions to a single food or several foods. It includes ‘True Allergy’. Food intolerance occurs when the body is incapable of dealing with certain foods: for example, an inability to digest milk. 'True allergy' is when ill-effects are caused by the body's own immune system reacting to a substance in a food that, in itself, is not harmful;

  • this response occurs mainly in infants under the age of 3, after which most grow out of it rapidly. The most common reactions include skin irritation resulting from Eczema or Urticaria (nettle rash) and persistent intestinal problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting;

  • more than 170 foods have been identified as allergens, including fruits, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, molluscs, peas, lentils, and beans other than green beans. However, 90% of the life-threatening reactions due to allergies and food intolerances are caused by 8 foods: peanuts, eggs, milk, wheat, tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish;

  • food intolerance reactions vary considerably in the severity of the associated symptoms and the length of time for which they persist;

  • food allergy reactions exhibit a rapid immune response within 1 hour of exposure. Peanut allergy is often a life-long affliction and can cause severe, life-threatening, anaphylactic reactions to tiny amounts of peanut protein;

  • in contrast with food allergy symptoms, food intolerance symptoms are mild i.e. headache and localised swelling. These symptoms can come on between 6–72 hours;

  • a common food intolerance, which often is confused with a food allergy, specifically to milk, is lactase deficiency. It affects at least 1 out of 10 people. Lactase is an enzyme in the lining of the small intestine. This enzyme digests or breaks down lactose, a complex sugar in milk, to simple sugars, which are then absorbed into the blood. If a person has lactase deficiency, he/she does not have enough lactase to digest the lactose in most milk products. Instead, other bacteria in the intestine use the undigested lactose, thereby producing gas;

  • in Europe, EC statistics indicate that 15% of the population is sensitive to 'something' - this includes non-food intolerance reactions (e.g. pollen and dust). Looking at food intolerance, which includes 'true allergy', the EC estimates that it affects 0.50-1.0% of the population;

  • although researchers are puzzled as to the cause, numerous studies attest to the dramatic rise in food allergies in the United States. In fact, the number of children who have food allergies has quadrupled over the last few decades, and the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reports that the number of children allergic to peanuts increased two-fold over a single five-year period from 1997 to 2002. Approximately 150 Americans, usually adolescents and young adults, die annually from food-induced anaphylaxis;

  • a growing awareness of the problem among the general public, along with high-profile media coverage, has further fuelled demand for free-from products: 1 out of 3 Americans believe that they have a food allergy, though various government and medical association statistics project the expected incidence to be between one in 25 and one in 70 (a range of 1.4% to 4% of the adult population);

  • though estimates also vary widely for food intolerance, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that approximately 28% of Americans suffer from some form of this condition. The effects range from mild inconvenience to life threatening, and the two most common culprits are lactose (found in milk-based products) and gluten (found in wheat-based products);

  • celiac disease is an extreme form of intolerance that makes it impossible to digest gluten, found in wheat, barley rye, and some oats. According to The University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore 1 in 133 individuals in the US suffer from it (0.8% of the population, or 2.2 million people);

  • in Australia, it is estimated that 1 to 2% of adults and 5 to 8% of children are affected by a food allergy. There were 2 deaths between 1997 and 2001 from food related anaphylaxis. Many more have severe allergic reactions. In the 2000-2001 period, 497 people were admitted to hospital with anaphylaxis and a further 441 with a severe allergic reaction; (1)
Another type of food intolerance is an adverse reaction to certain compounds that are added to food to enhance taste, provide colour, or protect against the growth of micro-organisms…
  • of specific additives the ones most often cited as causing problems are sulphite and benzoate preservatives, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and synthetic food colours, especially the yellow dye 5 (tartrazine);

  • contrary to popular belief, additives affect relatively few people (in Europe, for example, only 0.03-0.15% of the population). Any adverse reaction to additives is generally a sign of intolerance rather than 'true allergy';

  • sulphites occur naturally in some foods and are added to others to enhance crispness or prevent the growth of mould. In high concentrations, sulphites can pose problems for people with severe asthma (for this reason, levels in some food have been reduced over time - e.g. in red wine). Sulphites however, are still added to some foods (included organic food), and they also form during the fermentation of wine;

  • benzoates are derivatives of benzoic acid, which is found in many fruits, sometimes at levels far greater than would be permitted as an additive;

  • the flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG), which has been in use since 1900, was suspected by some people for many years of being the cause of the so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome, a hot flushing reaction. Tests on people who claim susceptibility to this condition have never confirmed such a link.

(1) Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing. [' target='_blank'>]

harmful eating | microbiological risks | anti microbial resistance | chemical risks | dioxins | mercury | hormones | avian influenza | BSE syndrome | BSE/ the bill | food irradiation | allergies & intolerances | consumers concerns
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