Food allergy: It`s all in the mind?
Last Updated: Friday, January 22, 2010, 00:00

London: Food allergy seems to be in the
mind, for researchers claim millions of people wrongly believe
that they`ve a food allergy whereas in reality just a fraction
suffer from a genuine problem.

A new study has revealed that although 20 percent
of adults in Britain -- around ten million -- claim they are
unable to eat foods from milk to mustard, fewer than two percent actually have a problem.

The researchers from Portsmouth University found
the discrepancy after reviewing studies into the prevalence
of food allergies, which are caused by an over-reaction of the
immune system, and intolerances, which have similar but less
severe symptoms, the British media reported.

They have blamed Internet searches, self-testing
kits and celebrity food fads for the epidemic of make-believe
allergies and intolerances. As a result, they said millions
are unnecessarily restricting their diets, starving themselves
of their favourite foods -- and of key nutrients.

Others could be suffering from another medical problem
which goes untreated because they believe their symptoms are
caused by a particular food such as milk, eggs or wheat, claim
the researchers.

"There is a clear discrepancy between the number of
people who report that they have food allergy or intolerance
and the numbers whose food allergy or intolerance can be
confirmed by a medical diagnosis.

"Self-diagnosis and other diagnostic tests not
conducted by qualified medical professionals are not reliable.
Food allergy is usually investigated via a skin prick test by
a medical professional with access to the patient`s clinical
history, sometimes in conjunction with a period of eliminating
the suspect food.

"Parents who believe their child has a food allergy
may feel anxious about their health and go to great lengths to
ensure their child avoids certain foods. Children are more
prone to nutritional problems when foods are excluded from the
diet so it`s even more critical that they receive a correct
diagnosis," lead author Dr Carina Venter said.


First Published: Friday, January 22, 2010, 00:00

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