Why Food Allergies Can Occur Later in Life

Much attention is paid to educating the public about food allergies in children but a surprising number of older adults develop sensitivities or allergic reactions to foods later in life.

An aging immune system may make seniors more likely to develop food allergies and according to new research, older adults with food intolerances and allergies may have a higher risk for severe reactions.

According to the journal, Today’s Geriatric Medicine, the prevalence of food allergies among the elderly is likely underestimated at between 5 and 10 per cent of the population, as well as under-diagnosed.  A recent study of nursing home patients found that nearly 25 per cent of senior residents tested positive for food allergens.

Older adults can have lower levels of stomach acid and this can lead to a greater incidence of allergic symptoms.  Auto-immune disorders and fewer antibodies that attack antigens may also be culprits that account for the growing number of seniors developing food allergies.  Malnutrition is a common concern among the elderly and deficiencies in nutrients including iron, zinc or vitamin D, have also been linked with the development of food allergies.

It is estimated that by 2050, more than 80 million people will be over the age of 65 and 20 million of those will be over 85 years of age.  Along with a rapidly growing elderly population, there is expected to be a significant increase in food allergy among seniors.

To download the food allergy guidelines for patients, families and caregivers developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, visit http://www.niaid.nih.gov/Pages/publications.aspx .