Food Allergy: Is Prevalence Increasing?

Intern Med J. 2017 Mar;47(3):256-261. doi: 10.1111/imj.13362.

Abstract

It is generally accepted that the prevalence of food allergy has been increasing in recent decades, particularly in westernised countries, yet high-quality evidence that is based on challenge confirmed diagnosis of food allergy to support this assumption is lacking because of the high cost and potential risks associated with conducting food challenges in large populations. Accepting this caveat, the use of surrogate markers for diagnosis of food allergy (such as nationwide data on hospital admissions for food anaphylaxis or clinical history in combination with allergen-specific IgE (sIgE) measurement in population-based cohorts) has provided consistent evidence for increasing prevalence of food allergy at least in western countries, such as the UK, United States and Australia. Recent reports that children of East Asian or African ethnicity who are raised in a western environment (Australia and United States respectively) have an increased risk of developing food allergy compared with resident Caucasian children suggest that food allergy might also increase across Asian and African countries as their economies grow and populations adopt a more westernised lifestyle. Given that many cases of food allergy persist, mathematical principles would predict a continued increase in food allergy prevalence in the short to medium term until such time as an effective treatment is identified to allow the rate of disease resolution to be equal to or greater than the rate of new cases.

Keywords: anaphylaxis; food allergy; prevalence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Anaphylaxis / epidemiology*
  • Anaphylaxis / immunology
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epidemics
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Western World
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E