The Rise in Food Allergies Stirs Me to Confusion

Sloane Miller Health Guide
  • Read "Food Allergies Stir a Mother to Action" article by New York Times reporter Kim Severson.


    I'm a centrist. For example, I believe not in nature VERSUS nurture but that we are a combination of nature AND nurture. Another example, I love when non-medical techniques work o help keep me healthy but am all too happy to take a Z-Pack if nasty bronchitis shows up.


    But when it comes to the question of why so many kids NOW have food allergies I just don't know. Could it be due to the Greenhouse effect or other environmental factors? Perhaps more highly processed, genetically modified, frankenfoods in our American diets? The popular hygiene theory holds that less childhood exposure to bacteria equals immune systems that aren't working properly, which might account for the sharp increase. Or is there more awareness by medical professionals and parent groups and, thus, more diagnoses of allergies in children? Or could a basic misunderstanding about the difference between food allergies and food intolerance be the culprit?

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    I'm not a doctor, however, the allergists I've asked at dinner parties don't know what's going on either. What I do know is that I think it's a variety of factors that are coming into play (here's the Centrist Girl coming back).


    Did any of you read the "other" food allergy article published earlier this month, particularly Meredith Broussard's article "Everyone's Gone Nuts?" Kim Severson of the New York Times wrote a feature about food allergies, profiling Robyn O'Brien. Ms. O'Brien is the brains and brawn behind the site, a regular feature on CNN and other outlets, and woman with a very clear notion about why this is all happening now.


    Ms. Robyn O'Brien's "...theory [is] that the food supply is being manipulated with additives, genetic modification, hormones and herbicides, causing increases in allergies, autism and other disorders in children...Ms. O'Brien encourages people to do what she did: throw out as much non-organic processed food as you can afford to. Avoid anything genetically modified, artificially created or raised with hormones. Don't eat food with ingredients you can't pronounce."


    This is a good idea for everyone. The very real concerns about the food supply are evidenced by the popularity of Michael Pollan's books and the recent spate of contaminated products. However, it's a big leap to say that food supply is being "manipulated" which may be the reason why, as the NYT notes, Ms. O'Brien's theory: " not supported by leading researchers or the largest allergy advocacy groups."



    The article continues: "Could it be that a toxic food environment has made children's immune systems go haywire? It's hard to find an expert in the field who supports Ms. O'Brien's theory. ‘I don't think it can be proven, so I can't say scientifically one way or the other,' Dr. Gleghorn said."


    Hmm, even if I don't agree with the radical notion that the food supply is being manipulated, the article made me think more about the why's of the increase in food allergies.


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    I'm wondering if you parents of children with food allergies have thoughts?


    What do you think about Robyn O'Brien's theories?


    What changes are you making for your children and household diets?


Published On: February 03, 2008