Omnivore - Fake food allergies on the rise

Experts say increase in food allergies is exaggerated


Are you that guy? The one who, when dining out, claims to be allergic to an arbitrary ingredient just so it doesn't end up on your dinner plate? Well the jig's up; you weren't fooling anyone anyway. According to Hugh Sampson, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, “research shows that as many as 20 percent of people claim to have food allergies when the number is actually around 3 to 4 percent."

It's important to note that Sampson's findings should not detract from those with true food allergies. Those with legit cases are confronted with this potentially life-threatening affliction on a daily basis and are forced to alter their lives accordingly. With no known cure, food allergies are serious conditions—especially in children. According to research cited by the Washington Post, nut allergies in children have increased steadily in U.S. households since 1997. This trend, however, does not account for the 15 to 16 percent of adults who claim to be allergic in 2012. What's the deal?

Experts say one main cause for the disparity in numbers is the tendency for adults to develop intolerances to certain foods over time. In other words, most people who claim to be allergic aren't really allergic, they're most likely just old.

So what's the difference between an allergy and an intolerance? It's been discussed at length in the past (just ask Google), but according to allergy studies, some people aren't getting the memo.

More after the jump