Most common food allergies in adults
Food allergies are classified by the WHO as the sixth human health problem, representing an increased health risk for the population of industrialized countries (1).
Although most common in childhood, a food allergy can develop at any age (2). In Western countries, food allergies to major allergens affect about 3 to 4% of adults, and their incidence appears to be increasing. If the reactions to fresh fruits and vegetables are taken into account, this figure can be as high as 10% in some regions (1).
The most common allergens in adults are tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and peanuts, but also fresh fruit and vegetables associated with Oral Allergy Syndrome (1, 3, 4).
Oral Allergy Syndrome usually develops in adulthood and occurs in people with pollen allergy. The reaction occurs because the proteins in some fruits and vegetables are similar to the proteins in pollen. In most cases, the symptoms only appear when eating the fruit or vegetable raw and usually the symptoms are located in the mouth area (5).
Allergies to peanuts, nuts, seeds, fish and shellfish are allergies that, even if they appear in childhood, tend to persist for life, and therefore account for a high proportion of allergic adults (5). If the food allergy appears in adulthood, it is less likely to go away (2).
The treatment of food allergy focuses on eliminating the allergen from the diet, and the widespread presence of some of these allergens in food products can make allergy management difficult and reduce options for shopping.
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(1) Vieira, RJL da S. (2015). Food Allergens: A Synoptic Study. New University of Lisbon.
(2) SPAIC Food Allergy Interest Group, 2017. Food Allergy: Concepts, Advice and Precautions, 1st Edition. Lisbon: Portuguese Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology with support from Thermo Fisher.
(3) EAACI (European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology). (2012). Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Public Declaration.
(4) EFSA. (2014). Allergens in Food: Scientific Advice Updated. World Food Regulation Review, 24(7), 13.
(5) FAACT (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team). (2020). Adults with Food Allergies. Available at: https://www.foodallergyawareness.org/