Food Allergies Found in Less Than 4 Percent of Americans

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Some 3.6 percent of Americans — less than one in 25 — have at least one food allergy or intolerance, according to a new report. Those numbers are lower than many earlier estimates.

The study, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, drew on the electronic health records of 2.7 million adults and children who received care between 2000 and 2013 at a large health system in the Boston area.

Of the 97,482 patients who had food allergies or intolerances, about half had symptoms such as hives, vomiting and coughing. Nearly 16 percent had more serious, body-wide anaphylactic reactions.

The most common food allergen groups were shellfish, fruits or vegetables, dairy and peanuts, in that order. Women and Asians were more likely to have food allergies and intolerances than other groups, the study found.

Dr. Li Zhou, the senior author and an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that young children had higher rates of allergies than adults, and that allergy rates increased among all patients each year between 2000 and 2013.