• Youngsters displaying side-effects of poor diet due to parents’ concerns
  • Mothers and fathers unnecessarily cutting out major food groups like wheat and dairy
  • Problem fuelled by widely available allergy tests that ‘have no scientific basis’, report finds

Colin Fernandez, Science Correspondent For The Daily Mail

Middle-class children wrongly branded ‘allergic’ by their parents are suffering malnutrition after being put on restricted diets, it has been claimed.

Experts say they are increasingly seeing youngsters from well-off families displaying the side-effects of poor diet after their parents unnecessarily cut out major food groups, such as wheat and dairy.

As a result, genuine allergy sufferers are being put at risk because dietary intolerances now seem so widespread that they are no longer viewed as serious, the experts warned.

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Middle-class children wrongly branded ‘allergic’ by their parents are suffering malnutrition after being put on restricted diets, it has been claimed

Middle-class children wrongly branded ‘allergic’ by their parents are suffering malnutrition after being put on restricted diets, it has been claimed

It came as a separate report warned that the problem is being fuelled by widely available allergy tests that ‘have no scientific basis’.

Tracey Brown, director of charity Sense about Science, said that a rise in the perception of allergies was leading to middle-class malnutrition.

‘Parents are cutting out major food groups in their children which is causing malnutrition in socioeconomic groups A to C [the top social classes] in children,’ she told the Cheltenham Science Festival.

Symptoms of malnutrition include being underweight, with sufferers losing 10 per cent of weight in three months, poor concentration, depression and feeling tired all the time.

Miss Brown, whose charity promotes greater understanding of science, pointed to evidence from social media that appeared to suggest allergies particularly affected more middle-class areas.

She said: ‘Particularly in middle-class areas, nurseries often talk about parents and how their children are allergic to things that their parents just don’t want them to have, like fizzy drinks or going to McDonald’s.

‘I think we need to get a robust study about the perception [of allergies] and how class-based they are.’

The problem means that society has become increasingly ‘cynical’ about genuine allergy sufferers, Miss Brown said.

Experts say they are increasingly seeing youngsters from well-off families displaying the side-effects of poor diet after their parents unnecessarily cut out major food groups, such as wheat and dairy

Experts say they are increasingly seeing youngsters from well-off families displaying the side-effects of poor diet after their parents unnecessarily cut out major food groups, such as wheat and dairy

She said waiters, when told that someone is allergic to egg, might merely scrape it off the plate, unaware that even traces might have severe effects on sufferers.

Meanwhile, a report titled Making Sense of Allergies said several allergy tests available, such as hair testing, are ‘worthless’.

Paul Seddon, a consultant paediatric allergist at the Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, said: ‘I commonly see children who have been put on unnecessarily restricted diets because their parents assume, in good faith, that they have allergies to multiple foods on the basis of “allergy tests” which have no scientific basis.’

It was claimed earlier this year that Britain is in the grip of an allergy epidemic. Around 21million Britons are said to have some kind of intolerance, ranging from hayfever to reactions to food and medication.

Increasingly restaurants and food manufacturers have been forced to label all products to protect those with allergies.

Yet a Portsmouth University study of 969 children found 34 per cent of parents reported food allergies in their children, but only 5 per cent were found to have one.

 

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