Increased respiratory allergies
may be occurring due to environmental changes and
more hygienic homes, there is no correlation between these two factors and food sensitivities on
the rise. Although only a small percentage of populations have true allergies (based upon the
IgE mediated response), a much larger percentage of sufferers are considered sensitive and are left out of the equation but yet suffer negative reactions from food.
Food manufacturers and distributors have had to adjust to this modern-day crisis by better food packaging and labeling. Restaurants, cafeterias, and airlines have been forced to offer alternative meal choices to accommodate allergy sufferers. Food allergies are on the rise due to changes in the human diet just as respiratory allergies have increased due to environmental changes such as pollution and climate changes.
A growing body of evidence
points to food modification as a major cause of the unique and multiple conditions affecting populations worldwide over the last 30 years.
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Increased use of pesticides and hormones in foods have caused consumers to turn to healthy organic food sources.
North America now leads the market in organic food production. The USDA reports 39% of U.S. consumers use organic foods found in natural food stores and in at least 73% of typical grocery stores. Organic food purchases have reached the $23 billion global mark in 2002.
Developing countries are now experiencing the western diet which has changed significantly in the last 30 years. The need for convenience, massive production, longer shelf-life and marketing, has driven food preparation and delivery to new dimensions.
While some methods have made life easier, others have become detrimental to health and contributed significantly to obesity, toxicity, and allergies.
These methods include mechanical preparation, genetic engineering, thermal processing, biochemical processing, artificial food colorings and additives, and synthetic vitamin fortification. The addition of preservatives may be one of the most significant changes in food processing.
Although purification and sterilizing methods have proven to ensure some safety for consumers, there are conflicting studies that also show health risks related to modern food production.
For instance thermal processing may reduce some allergenicity of food proteins but this same process can actually increase the allergenicity in peanuts, thereby exacerbating peanut allergies of consumers.
Denaturalization and chemical modifications to food proteins can occur through extreme heat. Results from these modifications could include interactions with other food components which compound allergic reactions by the immune system.
The body might then reject a food component due to molecular changes occurring to its natural structure through unnatural processing methods.
Unfortunately, the IgE binding studies are relied upon to evaluate the safety of new foods, but these studies have a poor specificity and sensitivity in assessing alllergenicity. (1) Therefore it might be logical to assume that increased food sensitivities could be related to various food modifications.
Although much attention and money has been placed on allergy drug research. There has been inadequate attention to food sensitivities and their sources. Little information is available to correlate specific foods to the wide variety of allergy symptoms experienced nowadays.
However, avoidance of the foods has proven to reduce or alleviate symptoms even though the reaction is not a true allergy with an IgE mediated response. Even though avoidance is helpful, further research into exact causes is necessary, especially in light of the rapidly increasing health issues related to food sensitivities and allergies.
The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society both recommend a healthy diet consisting of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, fish, and poultry. A predominately plant-based diet is preferred in addition to obtaining proper levels of Omega 3 fish oils through two weekly servings of tuna or salmon. Avoiding highly-processed foods and refined sugars is also a healthy choice, particularly for diabetics.
(1) Assessing the Effects of Processing on IgE Binding, Jean-Michel, Food Allergy Laboratory.
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