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Sesame allergies: More common than we thought

Northwestern University researchers have found that sesame allergies are more common in the United States that experts previously thought. According to their analysis of data from 50,000 households and more than 80,000 people, sesame allergies affect more than 1 million people in the U.S. While approximately 1.1 million people reported a sesame allergy diagnosis, more than 1.5 million people reported that they believe they suffer from the allergy.

The results, which were recently featured in JAMA Network Open, also show that both children and adults can develop sesame allergies and that the reactions can be severe. This feature of sesame allergies distinguishes it from other common food allergies, like milk and egg, which typically begin at an early age and often decline as children age.
Researchers also found that the majority of people with sesame allergy - roughly 80% - are also allergic to other foods. Of those with both a sesame and another food allergy, more than half had peanut allergies. The next most common allergy among those with a sesame allergy were tree nut allergies, egg allergies, and cow’s milk allergies, respectively.

Sesame is widespread in food products, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering adding the food to the light of major food allergens. This list currently includes 8 foods - milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soybeans.

Consumed as both a seed and in oil form, sesame can be relatively easy to identify on certain products, such as bread or crackers, but may be more difficult to discern in other baked goods like cakes. It is therefore important that those with sesame allergies educate themselves on where they are most likely to run into sesame so that they can avoid it and prevent problematic reactions.

Dr. Summit Shah

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