Allergies of all kinds over the years have followed a consistent pattern—rising right along with our nation’s population. Food allergies are no exception. Roughly 32 million Americans experience some type of food allergy, which is about 1 in 13 children.
Though many factors can be considered as to why this is happening, a team of Yale immunobiologists is proposing an answer that may or may not surprise you—that our own body’s internal food quality control system is to blame.
Writing in the medical journal, Cell, four Yale immunobiologists argue, “…allergic immunity plays a role in food quality control by mounting allergic defenses against food antigens associated with noxious substances. Exaggeration of these defenses can result in pathological food allergy.” 
In other words, we’re disrupting our body’s immune system in more complex ways than previously thought, namely processed foods. Whereas the medical community once generally agreed on something called the “hygiene hypothesis,” which suggested a lack of natural threats in our food supply caused our immune system to develop hypersensitivity to certain foods, the Yale team’s findings expand on this.
“One factor is increased use of hygiene products and overuse of antibiotics and, secondly, a change in diet and the increased consumption of processed food with reduced exposure to naturally grown food and changed composition of the gut microbiome,” says co-author Ruslan Medzhitov, Sterling Professor of Immunobiology and investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in an interview with Yale News.
“Finally, the introduction of food preservatives and environmental chemicals such as dishwashing detergents introduced novel elements for immune systems to monitor,” continued Medzhitov.
So, collectively, decades of optimizing our nation’s food supplies in combination with other unnatural environmental changes are making our immune systems react to food proteins the way they would react to toxic substances, the team argues.
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 Florsheim, E. B., A. Sullivan, Z. A., Khoury-Hanold, W., & Medzhitov, R. (2021, January 14). Food allergy as a biological food quality control system. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(20)31677-9#secsectitle0010
 Hathaway, B. (2021, February 01). Overactive food quality control system triggers food allergies. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://news.yale.edu/2021/01/14/overactive-food-quality-control-system-triggers-food-allergies