Food allergies and intolerances, pay attention to diagnosis


Food allergies and intolerances, what diagnoses? The scientific reliability of the diagnostic method is crucial both for consumers who are actually vulnerable to certain substances, and for those who on the basis of self-diagnosis or unvalidated tests expose themselves to the risk of depriving their diets of foods, nutrients and micronutrients essential to the body. The scale of the problem is shown in a scientific study recently published in ‘Jama Network Open‘.

Food allergies, true or false? US scientific study

The research Prevalence and Severity of Food Allergies Among U.S. Adults,’ conducted through interviews of more than 40 thousand adults, reveals that ‘about 10.8 percent were allergic to food at the time of the survey, while nearly 19 percent of adults believed they were allergic to food.’ (1) Therefore, the number of those who believe they have food allergies or intolerances turns out to be almost double the number of diagnosed patients.

51.1% of allergy suffer ers experienced a severe reaction, 38% experienced one or more emergency room visits related to it. Almost half of the respondents (48%) developed the allergy in adulthood; 45.3% are allergic to multiple foods. The most common allergies involve shellfish, milk, peanuts.

This data
suggest that at least 10.8% (> 26 million) of U.S. adults are allergic to foods, while nearly 19% of adults believe they have a food allergy. The results therefore suggest that it is crucial that adults with suspected food allergy receive appropriate confirmatory testing and counseling to ensure that food is not avoided unnecessarily and quality of life is not unjustifiably compromised‘. (1)

Those who suspect that they have a food allergy should undergo reliable diagnostic tests and receive specialized counseling. As well as appropriate medical prescriptions of adrenaline to manage any emergencies while waiting for medical help.

The data collected
suggest that at least 1 in 10 adults in the United States is allergic to foods. However, they also suggest that nearly 1 in 5 adults consider themselves to be allergic to food, while only 1 in 20 have a physician-diagnosed food allergy‘.

Suspected allergies and intolerances, what to do?

How to deal with suspicions about possible food allergies or intolerances? It is first worth clarifying the meaning of the two concepts, which are quite different though often confused:

  • food allergy, ‘anadverse immunological reaction to food, is a disease with high impact on the quality of life of sufferers and their families, with significant health care costs for the individual and the National Health System,’ the Ministry of Health explains,
  • food intolerance, on the other hand, ‘doesnot recognize an immune-mediated mechanism‘ and is generally characterized by less severe symptoms than an allergy can cause. The two phenomena are often confused. Not to mention the widespread temptation to make one’s own diagnosis, perhaps based on some research done online.

Reliance on a physician is essential. As appropriate, to a general practitioner or pediatrician, rather than to allergist, dietician, diabetologist, endocrinologist, gastroenterologist, internist.

The ten rules

for managing food intolerances
‘ is the document published by the scientific communities in Italy that follow these issues, with the aim of providing clarity. (2) The cornerstones:

  • no to self-diagnosis and tests done directly in labs without a prescription,
  • do not entrust your health to non-health professionals, and beware of those who practice health professions without any qualifications,
  • Be wary of those who propose food intolerance diagnostic tests for which scientific evidence of reliability is lacking,
  • Do not exclude essential foods from the diet in the absence of medical diagnosis and prescription. Therefore, gluten should not be eliminated without a diagnosis of allergy to one of the grains containing it or intolerance, even chronic intolerance (e.g., ” gluten allergy”). celiac disease). Nor cut milk and dairy products without a definite diagnosis of lactose intolerance or milk protein allergy.

Do not rely on the Internet for diagnosis and treatment. Not googling one’s symptoms to draw, based on the online answer, the do-it-yourself diagnosis. ‘The web, social networks and mass media have an informative and informative task and cannot replace the physician’s competence and responsibility in medical diagnosis and prescription.’

Allergies and intolerances, Ministry of Health warning about tests lacking scientific basis

The Ministry of Health recently updated the document ‘Food Allergies and Consumer Safety. To shed light on diagnosis and management of the disease, including with regard to the reliability of available tests. (3) The Ministry of Health dwells on the problem of ‘scientifically unsubstantiated diagnostic tests‘. For the diagnosis of food allergy, explains the Ministry of Health, ”diagnostic tests are on the market for which there is insufficient evidence of efficacy or, worse, diagnostic ineffectiveness has already been demonstrated. However, some of the most common ones find wide use and force families into cost and misdiagnosis‘. Not to mention lengthening the time to arrive at a true diagnosis.

The unconventional tests used for allergies but to date lacking scientific validation cited by the Ministry are the Bryant cytotoxic test, the sublingual and intradermal provocation and neutralization test, applied kinesiology, the cardio-auricular reflex test, the ‘Pulse test‘, the electrothermal or electroacupuncture test according to Voll, the Vega test, the Sarmtest, the ‘Biostrenght test‘ and variants, bioresonance and hair analysis (‘Hair analysis‘).

Sabrina Bergamini


(1) Gupta RS, et al. (2019). ‘Prevalence and Severity of Food Allergies Among US Adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Jan 4;2(1):e185630. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.5630.

(2) ‘Ten rules for managing food intolerances,’ Document signed by SIAAIC, ADI, Fnomceo, AMD, ANDID, SIAIP, SID and others,


(3) Ministry of Health, DGISAN, Office 5 -Nutrition and Consumer Information (2018). ‘
Food allergies and consumer safety, policy document and state of the art.

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Journalist. Consumption, rights, nutrition, social, environment. Head of Consumers Help. She collaborated with ResetDOC, Il Riformista, La Nuova Ecologia, IMGPress.