Between 1997 and 2008, the incidents of peanut allergy tripled and was identified as potentially fatal allergy than as chronic food allergy.
A recent World Economic Forum report raises a disturbing question, referring to food allergies as a ‘fundamental issue’ and why more people seem to be suffering from severe food allergies than ever before? This is happening across the globe. In Norway and Iceland, cod allergy is common, whereas, in Europe, allergies related to apple and peach better documented. In the US, it is peanut allergy all the way.
So, what exactly do we mean when we say ‘food allergy’?
Clemens von Pirquet, an Austrian physician, is credited with coining ‘allergy’ for the first time in 1906. However, it was in the 1930s that food allergy became a sub-category. However, it still did not warrant sufficient attention from the global medical fraternity till the late 80s. This further coincides with the increasing number of incidents reported with regard to peanut allergy in the United States.
Between 1997 and 2008, the incidents of peanut allergy tripled and were identified as potentially fatal allergy than as chronic food allergy. Similarly, tree nut foods are known to cause major allergies in Scandinavian countries. However, neither peanut allergies nor seed related allergies are common in India.
Recent data shows that vegetable foods cause the most common causes of food allergies in India. These details are elaborated in the research paper titled ‘Food Allergy: How much of a problem is it in India’ presented by SV Gangal and BK Malik. The authors, in their research paper, defines food allergy as “an immunological reaction suffered by some individuals resulting from the consumption of certain foods and it involves IgE antibody, responsible for a wide range of reactions.”
Their research paper indicates that most patients who suffer from food allergies tend to also show not only skin-related symptoms but also asthma and rhinitis.
List of food allergies
While stating that food allergy has not been identified as a major problem in India, the research paper highlights some interesting items to tick off in this list of food allergies in India:
1. In infants and young children, buffalo milk or cow milk is one of the most common causes of food allergy. Casein, which comprises of more than 80 per cent of milk proteins, is most allergenic milk protein.
2. Oranges, kiwis, papaya, avocados and sapota have been identified as causing allergies in some people.
3. Egg allergy has been diagnosed in many Indian children and adults. Note that the egg yolk is considered to be less allergic than the white portion.
4. While chickpea is a part of the Indian diet with popular evening snacks like roasted or puffed chickpea, note that it is also an important source of allergen that could cause IgE-mediated hypersensitivity reactions.
5. Sea food-related allergies are being reported globally. particularly caused by Atlantic salmon fish. However, this is not widely reported as much in India, where the varieties of fish differ from region to region.
Food allergy testing
Note that a skin prick test is used to diagnose those who are suspected to have IgE food allergies.
According to the above-cited research paper, the only proven therapy that works to counter a food allergy is the strict elimination of the offending allergen. Any drugs prescribed to tackle food allergy are known to be effective but only for the short term.
Summing up, the data shows that food allergy is still in its nascent phase in India. The question remains whether we are doing enough to understand the science of the environment, climate change and several contributing factors that evolve along with the increasing incidents of food allergies.
Further, the right kind of push, in terms of encouragement from the medical fraternity, can pave the way forward for researchers to investigate why more and more people are suffering from food allergies globally and what lifestyle measures can be taken to tackle this growing menace.
Till then, stay mindful of the food ingredients parked on your plate.