CHICAGO – A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 10.8% of adults had a food allergy, and 19% believed they had one. The study, which surveyed 40,443 U.S. adults, found that nearly half of food-allergic adults had at least one allergy develop as an adult. Another 38% reported at least one food allergy-related emergency department visit in their lifetime.
"We often think of allergies as a childhood condition, and we see so many of our children, our young children, developing food allergies," Dr. Ruchi Gupta, one of the authors of the study, told CNN.
More than 40,000 American adults took part in the new study, with 19% reporting that they had experienced symptoms of a food allergy. The researchers were able to attribute about half of these participants' symptoms to intolerances or other food-related conditions, meaning 10.8% of U.S. adults struggle with food allergies, writes CNN.
"We think about it in children, but we don't put enough emphasis in it in adults. But with this many adults perceiving a food allergy, and one in 10 having a food allergy, I think we need to put more effort into understanding what is happening in the adult population," said Gupta.
The most common allergens for adults were shellfish, peanuts, milk, tree nuts and fin fish.
"Given that the most prevalent allergies observed were shellfish and peanut, which prior pediatric work suggests are infrequently outgrown, this finding suggests that the population-level burden of food allergy is likely to increase in the future, absent widespread implementation of effective prevention efforts and/or therapies," the study says.