JHU Examines What’s Behind the Childhood Allergy Epidemic

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Food allergies used to be a relatively rare phenomenon; over the past two decades, however, childhood allergy rates have begun to creep up at an alarming rate. These days, nearly one in 20 kids under age 3 has a food allergy. Much as with rising rates of autism, there are many theories out there purporting to explain just what’s going on — some more science-based than others.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins decided to take a look at the root of the problem: the antibodies that cause food allergies. But when they analyzed thousands of blood samples from children, they found a surprising result. Even as allergies reportedly have gone up by 50 percent, antibody rates have not increased at all. “We were really very surprised,” study author Corrine Keet, a professor of pediatrics at Hopkins, told the Hopkins Hub.

There are a few theories for why allergies seem to be increasing even as the things that cause allergies aren’t. Perhaps allergy rates are actually the same as they’ve always been, but people are more aware of the problem, and more likely to label a food sensitivity as an allergy. Or perhaps something is shifting in the relationship between the antibody and the allergy. One thing’s for certain: Further research is required.

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