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Study Explores the Prevalence of Food Allergies

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This study showed that in a population of over 7,000 people, over 25% had an IgE food allergy. It’s rare to see a large study like this on food allergies. It is also rare to see allergies defined in such a scientific manner, meaning that a person was determined to have an allergy if IgE antibodies were found in the blood.

In the United States, patients are only determined to have an allergy if they experience one of five different symptoms: asthma, eczema, anaphylaxis, allergic rhinitis (runny nose), or hives. Most doctors ignore the possibility of any other symptoms. They also ignore positive IgE lab tests if the patient does not have one of those five symptoms.

This explains why in the U.S. we are often told that only about 2% of the adult population has food allergies. This German study found a much higher number of food allergies, and they only measured IgE antibodies. If we also include IgA and IgG food antibodies, such as those found in gluten sensitivities, then the number of people with food allergies is much higher.

I estimate that at least 50% of the population has a food allergy, and that may be significantly underestimating the issue. People with food allergies aren’t rare. They are simply not being addressed by the medical community. 

Excerpt of study from National Institutes of Health:

Prevalence of sensitisation to aeraoallergens and food allergens : Results of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults
Haftenberger M, Laußmann D, Ellert U, Kalcklösch M, Langen U, Schlaud M, Schmitz R, Thamm M.

Abteilung für Epidemiologie und Gesundheitsmonitoring, Robert Koch-Institut, General-Pape-Str. 62-66, 12101, Berlin, Deutschland,


In view of the increasing prevalence of allergies, up-to-date data on the prevalence of allergic sensitisation are of major interest. In the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults (DEGS1) (2008-2011) blood samples from a population-based sample of 7,025 participants aged 18 to 79 years were analysed for specific IgE antibodies against 50 common single allergens and screened for common aeroallergens (SX1) and grass pollen (GX1).

In all, 48.6 % of the participants were sensitised to at least one allergen. Overall, men were more frequently sensitised to at least one allergen than women were. Sensitisations to at least one allergen were more common among younger than older participants and among participants with a higher socio-economic status.

In all, 33.6 % of the participants were sensitised to common aeroallergens, 25.5  % to food allergens and 22.6 % to wasp or bee venoms. Compared with the German National Health Interview and Examination Survey 1998 (GNHIES98), the prevalence of sensitisation to common aeroallergens increased from 29.8 to 33.6 %.This increase was statistically significant only in women.

The results of DEGS1 still showed a high prevalence of allergic sensitisation. An English full-text version of this article is available at SpringerLink as supplemental.

PMID: 23703487

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