How medical science got it exactly wrong on childhood food allergies How prevalent are food allergies? According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, the prevalence of children under the age of 18 afflicted with food allergies increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007. For certain food allergies, the increase has been even steeper. Children in North America and the U.K., for example, have seen the prevalence of peanut allergies double in a decade, according to a 2008 study published by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. And a Canadian study about peanut allergies conducted on Montreal families showed an increase from 1.34% in the 2000-2002 period to 1.62% prevalence in the 2005-2007 period.
“We don’t have a good explanation for why that is,” Papadopoulos said. “But delayed introduction does seem to be a factor.” (Getty Images/Thinkstock)
The downside of a good education: food allergies People from well-educated families are almost twice as likely to suffer from some dangerous food allergies as others — possibly because their bodies’ natural defences have been lowered by rigorous hygiene and infection control, suggests a new Canadian study.
The research from McGill University also found that immigrants were about half as likely to be afflicted by the allergies, perhaps reflecting differences in diet and environment between their countries of origin and Canada.
The study, just published in the Journal of Allergy, was meant to address an enduring medical mystery: Why have so many people in certain industrialized countries developed violent reactions to peanuts, shellfish and other foods in recent decades?
The link to higher education may be explained by what is called the hygiene hypothesis, the unproven idea that smaller families, cleaner homes, more use of antibiotics to treat infections and vaccines to prevent them have curbed development of the immune system, said Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, who led the research. That in turn could make some people more susceptible to allergy.