Why Food Allergy Prevalence Is Growing

September 13, 2023 12:01:51

The director of population health research at the Northwest University’s Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research suggests that increasing food allergy rates in the developed world may be partly due to advancements in medicine and certain parental habits.

By the 1980s, Northwest University Professor Christopher Warren says, the United States had mostly eliminated tapeworms and hookworms. Without any actual threats to deal with, our immune systems downgraded their attention to relatively harmless allergens such as birch pollen and walnuts.

Anecdotal results from some researchers who injected themselves with hookworms found that introducing the parasite into their systems somewhat distracted their overactive immune systems and alleviated stubborn allergies with “some success.” According to this theory, the presence of organisms such as tapeworms essentially kept the immune system’s guns trained on actual harmful organisms and limited collateral damage to healthy tissue.

Now that the immune system doesn’t have to deal with such organisms, especially during early childhood, it focuses its attention on less-deadly foes and often mistakes harmless proteins for potential threats. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Health Interview Survey revealed that childhood allergy rates have doubled from 2008–2018 and may have increased even further since then.

Although researchers don’t have similar data on adult allergy rates, trends in other research reinforce the idea that the prevalence of food allergies in the country is growing.

Allergies may seem like a minor health issue, but they can be quite deadly, especially for the one in every four people with food allergies who can go into anaphylactic shock after even minor exposure to irritants. Hospitals in the U.S. and across the world are registering higher emergency room visits due to allergic reactions to food, and in regions such as the U.S., Europe and Australia, cases of anaphylaxis shock have seen a steady rise.

Food allergy hospital visits in the United States have increased by three times between 1993 to 2006 while England has seen a 72% surge in pediatric hospital admissions due to anaphylaxis from 2013 to 2019. Warren theorizes that increased allergy rates may be due to modern society overprotecting children and keeping them shielded from potential allergens such as peanuts until they reach a certain age.

By keeping their children from interacting with foods such as peanuts while they are still very young, Warren says parents may deprive their children’s immune systems of the opportunity to learn what is and what isn’t a threat and increase their odds of developing food allergies. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases now recommends that parents expose their children to peanuts when they are as young as four months, especially if they have eczema.

Enterprises such as Scinai Immunotherapeutics Ltd. (NASDAQ: SCNI) are taking on the challenge of addressing the growing burden of autoimmunity by developing various immunotherapies targeting these conditions.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Scinai Immunotherapeutics Ltd. (NASDAQ: SCNI) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/SCNI

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