CHICAGO, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- Sesame allergy affects more than 1 million children and adults in the United States, more than previously known, according to a study of Northwestern Medicine.
Study investigators administered a survey via telephone and web to more than 50,000 U.S. households, asking detailed information about any suspected food allergies, including specific allergic reaction symptoms, details about clinical diagnosis of food allergies as well as demographic information. They obtained responses for a nationally representative sample of approximately 80,000 children and adults.
The study found that more than 1.5 million or 0.49 percent of the population in the United States report a current sesame allergy, and over 1.1 million or 0.34 percent of the population report either a physician-diagnosed sesame allergy or a history of sesame-allergic reaction symptoms.
The data also indicate many individuals who report sesame allergies and experience potentially severe allergic reactions are not obtaining clinical diagnosis of their allergies.
"Our study shows sesame allergy is prevalent in the United States in both adults and children and can cause severe allergic reactions," said lead study author Ruchi Gupta, a professor of pediatrics and of medicine at Northwestern University (NU) Feinberg School of Medicine.
Sesame labeling is currently not required by law as are the other top eight allergens like peanut and milk. This increases the risk of accidental ingestion. "It is important to advocate for labeling sesame in packaged food. Sesame is in a lot of foods as hidden ingredients. It is very hard to avoid," said Gupta.
Unlike allergies such as milk or egg, which often develop early in life and are outgrown by adolescence, sesame allergy affects children and adults to a similar degree. In addition, four in five patients with sesame allergy have at least one other food allergy; more than half have a peanut allergy; a third are tree-nut allergic; a quarter are egg-allergic and one in five are allergic to cow's milk.
The study was published on Friday in JAMA Network Open.
Northwestern Medicine is the collaboration between Northwestern Memorial Healthcare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, which includes research, teaching and patient care.