“While we found that one in 10 adults have food allergy, nearly twice as many adults think that they are allergic to foods, while their symptoms may suggest food intolerance or other food related conditions,” said Dr. Gupta. “It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet. If food allergy is confirmed, understanding the management is also critical, including recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine.”
Researchers discovered that only half of adults with convincing food allergy had a physician-confirmed diagnosis, and less than 25% reported a current epinephrine prescription.
Researchers also found that nearly half of food-allergic adults developed at least one of their food allergies as an adult.
“We were surprised to find that adult-onset food allergies were so common,” said Dr. Gupta. “More research is needed to understand why this is occurring and how we might prevent it.”
The study data indicate that the most prevalent food allergens among U.S. adults are shellfish (affecting 7.2 million adults), milk (4.7 million), peanut (4.5 million), tree nut (3 million), fin fish (2.2 million), egg (2 million), wheat (2 million), soy (1.5 million), and sesame (.5 million).
“Our data show that shellfish is the top food allergen in adults, that shellfish allergy commonly begins in adulthood, and that this allergy is remarkably common across the lifespan,” said Dr. Gupta. “We need more studies to clarify why shellfish allergy appears to be so common and persistent among U.S. adults.”
Dr. Gupta is the Mary Ann and J. Milburn Smith Research Professor for a Sr. Scientist in Child Health Research at the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute at Lurie Children’s. She also is Director of the Science & Outcomes of Allergy & Asthma Research (SOAAR) Program based at Lurie Children’s and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.