More Causes of Food Allergies
Another factor influencing the rise of food allergies may be the way certain foods are processed. In the U.S., peanuts are typically roasted to make peanut butter, candy, and baked goods, and this process is believed to make them more allergenic. However, in countries where it's customary to boil peanuts, the prevalence of peanut allergies is much lower. The increasing popularity of foods containing sesame seeds may help explain the rise in this allergy. And according to one study, the growing rate of cesarean sections may even be fueling food allergies: Among babies whose mothers had allergies, those born by cesarean were seven times more likely to have an allergic reaction to eggs, fish, or nuts by age 2. The researchers speculate that vaginal delivery colonizes a baby's intestines with healthy bacteria that help protect against food allergies.
Certainly, the increased awareness about food allergies also makes kids more likely to get diagnosed. "Twenty years ago, there were doctors who didn't believe food allergies even existed," says Stacie Jones, MD, chief of allergy and immunology at Arkansas Children's Hospital, in Little Rock. "Now we know so much more about how to recognize and properly evaluate them."