The number of people who believe they are allergic to a particular food has risen substantially over the past decade. According to theBBC,as many as 20% of the population now believes themselves to be affected by a food allergy or intolerance. But how often is this ‘self-diagnosis’ correct? How many of these self-diagnosed food allergies can be confirmed through medical testing?
Sales of gluten-free, dairy-free, and other “free-from” foods have nearly doubled in just the past five years, reflecting the growing number of people cutting out certain foods from their diet for health reasons.
Experts believe that many people who have self-diagnosed themselves with food allergies may be avoiding important food groups because they believe themselves to have a food allergy, without any medical evidence or advice from a doctor. Kristian Bravin, senior dietician at University Hospital in Leicester, says “We get people coming to the clinic with severely restricted diets… We have to be careful they don’t avoid more and more food,” which can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
According to Dr. Bravin, while 20% of people believe they have a food allergy or intolerance, “the reality is much smaller than that,” probably around 1-2% for adults and 4-6% for children. He hopes that people who believe they have a food allergy will seek professional advice before altering their diets to cut out a suspected allergen.