Recently, we took a deep dive into Americans’ stomachs to figure out what makes vegetarians and carnivores tick. It was dark in there, so we’ve emerged donning our tiny flashlights to diagnose Americans’ food allergies and intolerances.
The prognosis is surprisingly bleak: forty percent of American adults have a food intolerance or sensitivity. The most common? Lactose intolerance. One in five Americans struggles with all things dairy, among whom GI issues are the most common symptom (81%). Not that it slows them down too much: 72% don't take any medications before consuming dairy products. Evidently the dairy-afflicted among us are content to trade a Baskin-Robbins treat for a night atop the porcelain throne.
Across all foods we tested, Americans 45 and younger are significantly more likely to report having an intolerance compared to their older counterparts. Younger Americans are 3x more likely to say gluten (12% compared to 4%) and caffeine (15% compared to 5%) disagree with them. Back in the day, the only food that was intolerable was mom’s meatloaf.
Among the 18% of Americans who have a food allergy, dietary choices are more consequential. Shellfish is the most commonly reported food allergy (6%), followed by cow’s milk (5%), and peanuts (4%). Don’t mistake intolerance for an allergy, however. GI issues are the least of your concern in the event of an allergic reaction. Forty percent of adults with a food allergy have been administered life-saving medication and 34% have been hospitalized for anaphylaxis shock from an allergic reaction.
So leave the shellfish to Red Lobster, cut the cheese at home, toss your peanut products before boarding your flight, and save a life, people.