Dispatch: Allergy or Intolerance?

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A meta-analysis of data reported on food allergies was published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association as part of a large project organized by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. According to the report, despite the fact that 30 percent of the population believe they have food allergies, the true incidence of food allergies is only about 8 percent for children and less than 5 percent for adults.

“Many people who think they have a food allergy may have a food intolerance that does not involve their immune system,” explains Dr. Ross. “For example, lactose intolerance causes very uncomfortable reactions to dairy products, but it is a result of a lactase enzyme deficiency rather than an immune response to milk. This report suggests that only a fraction of people who think they have food allergies actually do, and it’s a pretty well-focused meta-analysis. Still, if I was a physician and a patient reported a reaction to food, I wouldn’t sit there and argue with them about the correct terminology.”