Food Allergies An American Obsession?

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Food allergies are increasingly top-of-mind for many Americans. In fact, one out of every three people in this country claim to have a food allergy of one kind or another. But the science doesn't support these fears. Government and medical association estimates put the actual incident rate at only between one in 25 and one in 70.

Parents are one of the groups most concerned about food allergies, especially as kids go back to school and eat more meals away from home. In many cases, they're also ill-informed about the differences between allergies and intolerances, and the proper course of treatment for each. A new survey conducted among California parents last month reveals that many are self-diagnosing food allergies and eliminating nutrient-rich foods from their child's diet without seeing a doctor first.

"Medical self-diagnosis is risky business," says Dr. Stuart Epstein, Beverly Hills Allergist, Associate Clinical Professor David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Attending Allergist. "Without professional advice, suffering is almost always extended and important foods eliminated unnecessarily."

And milk is often the "fall guy." In fact, nearly two-thirds (63%) of parents surveyed in this recent Omnibus Poll admitted to eliminating -- or limiting their children's intake -- of milk at the first sign of problems, believing dairy products to be at least partially responsible for their symptoms.

"Parents are sometimes quick to point the finger at cow's milk when their child comes down with unexplained symptoms like intestinal problems or allergic reactions," stresses Dr. Epstein. "Eliminating milk from your diet, especially a child's diet, without talking to your doctor first, is not a smart idea."

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement last week urging parents not to eliminate dairy foods from their children's diet for lactose intolerance reasons. Dairy foods like milk are an important source of calcium and other nutrients that facilitate growth during a critical bone building time.

Americans often confuse food allergies with food sensitivities or intolerances. An allergy is a specific condition that involves immune response, where as an intolerance -- like lactose intolerance -- is very rare among young people. Medical experts like Dr. Epstein recommend seeking medical attention at the first sign of a problem.

From August 14th to 22nd Market Tools surveyed 551 California parents online to gauge food allergy and lactose intolerance awareness and milk allergies as a health concern for their children.

Key Findings:

- Sixty-three percent (63%) of California parents eliminate milk from their child's diet at the first sign of a food-related health issue.

- Forty percent (40%) of parents do not consult a doctor before eliminating foods from their child's diet.

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