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Australian dietitians warn against self-diagnosed food allergies

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The growing trend of self-diagnosing food allergies and intolerances is placing Australians at greater risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, dieticians have warned.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) said many people were wrongly attributing symptoms like a stuffy nose, stomach pain, bloating and headaches to food allergies and intolerances. But according to the leading nutrition organisation, these symptoms were often due to something else.

Studies indicate that up to 25 per cent of the population report to have a food allergy.

But Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and spokesperson for the DAA Alison Graham said true food allergies affected less than two per cent of adults.

‘The number of adults being diagnosed with food allergies has remained constant, but the number of people incorrectly self-diagnosing food allergies and intolerances has skyrocketed,’ Ms Graham said.

She said a problem with self-diagnosis was the risk of missing an underlying health problem.

According to the DAA, Australians today appeared to have a greater interest in health and awareness of food allergies. And the organisation said the increasing number of food and drink products targeted at people with food allergies and intolerances had sparked public interest in the conditions.

In a recent UK survey4, doctors blamed celebrity food fads like wheat- or dairy-free diets for the growing number of people avoiding these key food groups due to fears of food allergies and intolerances. Ms Graham said unnecessarily avoiding certain foods would make it tougher to meet daily nutrition needs.

She urged people who suspect they have a food allergy or intolerance to see a doctor or an APD for a proper diagnosis, before they start cutting foods out of their diet.

‘Allergies are immune reactions to the proteins found in some foods, whereas intolerances are triggered by food chemicals which cause varying side-effects in different people. Both conditions are very serious for those affected but, if properly diagnosed, can be managed.

‘For the rest of us, eating a varied and balanced diet can help us feel better and be healthier. An APD can help with individual and practical advice that’s right for you,’ Ms Graham said.

(Source: Lancet: Dietitians Association of Australia: February 2008)

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Posted On: 15 February, 2008
Modified On: 30 September, 2014


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