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Half Of People Who Think They Have A Food Allergy Actually Don’t

It seems like more people than ever have a food allergy these days, but a new study finds not everyone who thinks they have such an allergy actually does. Northwestern University researchers looked at two groups of study participants over the course of a year. Over 40,000 U.S. adults were asked if they had a food allergy and were questioned about their reactions and diagnosis. Then researchers assessed whether the reported allergy, whether diagnosed or not, was “convincing.”

The results showed the most common “convincing” allergy was to shellfish (affecting 2.9% of the adults), with milk and peanuts coming in second and third, affecting 1.9% and 1.8% of adults, respectively.

But while 10.8% of participants had at least one “convincing” food allergy, almost twice as many –19% – believed they had such a problem. What’s more alarming is that many who are actually allergic to certain foods don’t have access to life-saving medication, should they have a serious reaction, The Guardian reported.

Almost 11% of American adults are really allergic to a particular food, according to the study. That’s roughly 26 million people. And nearly half of those allergies developed in adulthood.