UK Health Expert Warns Vegan Diets Can Trigger Dramatic ‘Explosion’ in Food Allergies

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Pollen food syndrome (PFS), associated with hay fever and resulting in itchiness in the mouth and throat and sometimes mild swelling, typically affects around 2 percent of the UK population. However, cases have risen markedly in recent years.
An “explosion” in food allergy cases across the UK may be closely linked to a vegan and vegetarian diet, one of the country’s leading health experts has been cited as warning.
Such products as soya milk, fruit smoothies and uncooked vegetables – typically forming the basis of these diet plans – can trigger attacks in people sensitive to pollen, according to Dr Isabel Skypala, consultant dietician and clinical lead for food allergies based at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London.
Cases of pollen food syndrome (PFS) have risen markedly across the UK in recent years, said the expert.

“The last research into the prevalence of PFS in Britain, which I undertook in 2008, showed that 2 percent of adults had it, including 4 percent of people in London. I suspect that it has probably doubled since then,” The Guardian cited the dietician as saying.

According to Skypala, the soaring cases can be explained by the combined impact of the climate’s global heating, worsening pollution and changes in pollen patterns.
Typically, pollen food syndrome is triggered by eating raw nuts, fruit and vegetables. However, additional research into the issue has suggested that cases can also be prompted by foods popular among vegans and vegetarians. These people tend to steer clear of animal products, opting for soya milk, avocados, jackfruit, edamame beans and smoothies instead.
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An estimated 13 million Britons are believed to be allergic to pollen, especially birch tree pollen, and suffer from hay fever. It is these individuals that are particularly at risk when adhering to the aforementioned diets.
According to the health expert, PFS can be caused by unstable pollen antibodies found in proteins in some raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and soya.
“In my clinic at the Royal Brompton hospital in London about five out of every 10 people I see has PFS, whereas 10 years [ago] it might have been two. There’s a perfect storm of increasing PFS at the same time as you have a very great increase in people eating fruits and vegetables,” said Skypala.
However, the expert reiterated that it is a person's specific sensitivity to pollen that puts him or her at risk of PFS, and not the fact that the person follows a meat-free diet.
Although most individuals who suffer from PFS do not experience anything beyond mild symptoms, such as itching or tingling in or around the mouth, the growing case numbers have also been accompanied by increasing instances of nausea, vomiting and difficulty breathing because of throats swelling up, claimed the medical expert.

“Though a lot of people with PFS have a mild reaction, severe reactions are more frightening and more dangerous,” she said, acknowledging that the surge in cases has been piling more pressure on the National Health Service (NHS).

The doctor also lamented the fact that specialist services are under-resourced, forcing patients to wait months to be seen.
In an effort to remedy the case, Skypala has drawn up a new set of clinical guidelines for the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology.
The guidelines will help doctors distinguish PFS from a nut allergy which it is often confused with.
The expert advice offered by Skypala has been corroborated by The Anaphylaxis Campaign. The UK charity that supports people at risk from severe allergic reactions was cited as warning that even frozen fruit or vegetables can provoke an allergic reaction.
“The rising prevalence of PFS comes at a time when there is a worldwide change in dietary habits, with more people adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle,” cautioned the charity.
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