Around the world, children are far more likely than ever before to develop food allergies.
Inquiries into the deaths of British teenagers after eating buttermilk, sesame and peanut have highlighted the sometimes tragic consequences. In 2018, a six-year-old girl in Western Australia died as the result of a dairy allergy.
The rise in allergies in recent decades has been particularly noticeable in the West. Food allergy now affects about 7% of children in the UK and 9% of those in Australia, for example. Across Europe, 2% of adults have food allergies.
Life-threatening reactions can be prompted even by traces of the trigger foods, meaning patients and families live with fear and anxiety. The dietary restrictions which follow can become a burden to social and family lives.
While we can’t say for sure why allergy rates are increasing, researchers around the world are working hard to find ways to combat this phenomenon.
What Causes an Allergy?
An allergy is caused by the immune system fighting substances in the environment that it should see as harmless, known as allergens.
These innocent substances become targets, leading to allergic reactions.
Symptoms range from skin redness, hives and swelling to – in the most severe cases – vomiting, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing and anaphylactic shock.
Some of the most common foods for children to be allergic to are:
- Tree nuts (eg walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, pecans)
- Shellfish (eg crustaceans and molluscs)
Where Are Food Allergies Most Likely to Occur?
The frequency of food allergy has increased over the past 30 years, particularly in industrialised societies. Exactly how great the increase is depends on the food and where the patient lives.
For example, there was a five-fold increase in peanut allergies in the UK between 1995 and 2016.
A study of 1,300 three-year-olds for the EAT Study at King’s College London, suggested that 2.5% now have peanut allergies.
Australia has the highest rate of confirmed food allergy. One study found 9% of Australian one-year-olds had an egg allergy, while 3% were allergic to peanuts.
The increase in allergies is not simply the effect of society becoming more aware of them and better at diagnosing them.
It is thought that allergies and increased sensitivity to foods are probably environmental, and related to Western lifestyles.
We know there are lower rates of allergies in developing countries. They are also more likely to occur in urban rather than rural areas.
Factors may include pollution, dietary changes and less exposure to microbes, which change how our immune systems respond.
Migrants appear to show a higher prevalence of asthma and food allergy in their adopted country compared to their country of origin, further illustrating the importance of environmental factors.
Some Possible Explanations
There is no single explanation for why the world is becoming more allergic to food, but science has some theories….
To their credit, they point out the sorry state of vitamin D levels in the industrialized world. In any case, vaccines are certainly a prime suspect.
Vaccine-induced autoimmunity: the role of molecular mimicry and immune crossreaction
Abstract: Since the early 1800s vaccines have saved numerous lives by preventing lethal infections. However, during the past two decades, there has been growing awareness of possible adverse events associated with vaccinations, cultivating heated debates and leading to significant fluctuations in vaccination rates. It is therefore pertinent for the scientific community to seriously address public concern of adverse effects of vaccines to regain public trust in these important medical interventions. Such adverse reactions to vaccines may be viewed as a result of the interaction between susceptibility of the vaccinated subject and various vaccine components. Among the implicated mechanisms for these reactions is molecular mimicry. Molecular mimicry refers to a significant similarity between certain pathogenic elements contained in the vaccine and specific human proteins. This similarity may lead to immune crossreactivity, wherein the reaction of the immune system towards the pathogenic antigens may harm the similar human proteins, essentially causing autoimmune disease. In this review, we address the concept of molecular mimicry and its application in explaining post vaccination autoimmune phenomena. We further review the principal examples of the influenza, hepatitis B, and human papilloma virus vaccines, all suspected to induce autoimmunity via molecular mimicry. Finally, we refer to possible implications on the potential future development of better, safer vaccines….
Hepatitis B Virus vaccines: potential mimickers of myelin components…
The first report of neurologic adverse events following HBV vaccines was produced in a postmarketing surveillance issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the manufacturer.51 The authors could not detect a conclusive association between any neurologic adverse event and the vaccine. Nevertheless, they relate to their significant limitations in calculating a precise relative risk for the various events reported, due to variations in diagnostic classification of the cases, estimates of the size of the vaccinated population, background incidence of the diseases and the definition of a hypothetical at-risk interval. They further refer to their inability to assess underreporting of adverse effects. Following this publication, several interesting case reports were published regarding central nervous system demyelination arising after HBV immunization. One noteworthy such report published in the Lancet dates back to 1991, when Herroelen et al.52 described two patients developing central nervous system demyelination 6 weeks after receiving the vaccine….
“After reviewing the literature, we observed that complications seen after Hepatitis B vaccination are sudden infant death syndrome, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, vasculititis optic neuritis, anaphylaxis, systemic lupus erytymatosus, lichen planus and neuro-muscular disorder.”…
For the United States there are three different influenza vaccine production technologies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)external icon:
- egg-based flu vaccine, …
… Which bovine derived materials are used in vaccine manufacture?
Microorganisms for vaccine manufacture are grown under controlled conditions in media which provide the nutrients necessary for growth. Cow components are often used simply because cows are very large animals, commonly used for food, and thus much material is available. Animal-derived products used in vaccine manufacture can include amino acids, glycerol, detergents, gelatin, enzymes and blood. Cow milk is a source of amino acids, and sugars such as galactose….