Almost half of people who believe they have a food allergy are wrong, research suggests. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Almost half of people who believe they have a food allergy are wrong, research suggests.

Nineteen percent of people think they are allergic to foods such as shellfish, peanuts and dairy, but just 10.8 percent have symptoms, a major study found.

Experts who surveyed more than 40,000 people have now warned that some ‘allergy sufferers’ may be avoiding foods unnecessarily

Researchers, led by Northwestern University in Chicago, asked if people had a food allergy and what were their symptoms. They were judged to have a ‘convincing’ allergy if they showed one of 13 symptoms, including wheezing, chest pain and hives. Just 10.8 percent suffered any symptoms –and only one in 20 had been diagnosed as allergic by a doctor.

Food allergies were more common in women than men and in people in their 30s.

Study lead author Dr Ruchi Gupta said: ‘While we found that one in 10 adults have food allergy, nearly twice as many think that they are allergic to foods.

‘Their symptoms may suggest food intolerance or other food-related conditions.

‘It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet.’

The Association of UK Dietitians has also found one in five people in Britain have experienced reactions which make them think they are intolerant to food.

But a food intolerance is very different to a food allergy, which can see cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

The US study asked people who claimed they had a food allergy to list their symptoms. Researchers then compared them to genuine allergic reactions such as rapid heartbeat, fainting, low blood pressure, vomiting, swelling in the lip or tongue, difficulty in swallowing and throat-tightening.

The study found that a shellfish allergy was the most common, followed by allergies to milk, peanuts, tree nuts and finned fish such as tuna and salmon.

Fewer than a quarter of the adults surveyed had a prescription for epinephrine – the shot of adrenaline found in ‘epi-pens’ to tackle allergic reactions such as anaphylactic shock.

Dr Gupta said: ‘We were surprised to find that adult-onset food allergies were so common.

‘More research is needed to understand why this is occurring and how we might prevent it.’

Daily Mail