Recent research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation has revealed that in the last few decades, the number of people with food allergies has doubled, while our allergic reactions are on the rise as well!
Food allergies now affect between three and four percent of adults and around six percent of children, and peanuts in particular are a growing problem.
While childhood food allergies – which commonly include cows milk and eggs – are usually shaken off by the time we reach adulthood, peanut allergies persist.
This poses a great risk to many, especially as peanut allergy sufferers are the most likely to experience allergy-related anaphylaxis. This is a severe allergic reaction that can cause additional painful symptoms, including hives, swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, gastrointestinal pain and respiratory problems. Sometimes, in the most serious cases, heart attacks have been triggered due to coronary artery spasms.
It is thought high exposure to peanuts at a very young age can lead to the life-threatening allergy, and it is advised that parents delay introducing children to peanuts until they are older.
According to a 2007 study conducted at Duke University, US, the incidence of peanut allergies in children doubled between 1997 and 2002. Children born after 2000 were discovered to have an average initial exposure to peanuts at twelve months of age, compared to just five years earlier when a child’s first contact on average was at 22 months old.
Adding to concerns is the fact that children with peanut allergies are more likely to suffer from skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. Research has found eighty percent of children with peanut allergies will suffer from it, which suggests the two conditions may have similar trigger mechanisms – influenced by environmental and genetic factors.
Genetic factors are particularly influential, as a 2000 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found. 82 per cent of peanut allergies can be passed from one generation to the next, while environmental factors – such as exposure to the food at a young age – can greatly increase the risk of developing a life-long allergy.