The Journal of Pediatrics published a report on Monday showing an increase of 18% in food allergies in a 10 year period starting in 1997. This brings the total percentage of kids with allergies to 3.9% or 1 in 25 children under the age of 18. That’s about 2.88 million children across the country, or one in every classroom!
90% of food allergies are from 8 basic foods (soy, wheat, egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish), whose presence must be labeled on food products.
What is causing this increase?
“Nobody knows for certain” is the party line, if you ask government health organizations and others.
One explanation is that parents are now more aware of allergies than they were a decade ago. In their calculations, the study’s researchers took into account the heightening awareness to allergies, but even that does not explain the additional 450,000 kids with allergies over a decade.
Another option, named the “hygiene hypothesis”, purports that the relatively sterile environments of kids today don’t allow young bodies to develop strong immune systems, simply because there are no disease causing substances for them to fight. But then, for some reason, the underdeveloped immune systems overreacts to allergens.
Yet a third possibility, not investigated enough, is genetically modified foods. The modified proteins in GM soy or corn, whose byproducts are found in well over 50% of supermarket items, could possibly be causing new allergic reactions.
For most parents, luckily, allergies are a non-issue. But almost everyone has a friend or extended family member with a story about a child who has been diagnosed as allergic. That’s a curve ball that catches many folks totally unprepared. It means totally rethinking about how a family buys, stores, prepares, and serves food. Every meal, every day, home and out.
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