Royal Institution lecture: Food Allergies – what is there to worry about?

Earlier this month I went to a talk at the Royal Institution about food allergy and intolerance. It was interesting to find that birch pollen is implicated in food allergies – for example, a recent study has shown that some food allergies very common in the UK and the rest of northwest Europe are uncommon in Greece where the birch is uncommon and not native. Apparently the birch pollen acts as a kind of catalyst, sensitizing the unfortunate individual to other allergens, particularly tree and peanuts.

An audience member suggested there should be a study to find whether the incidence of food allergies in Britain had changed following the introduction of birch trees. It’s quite an interesting idea. Unfortunately, birch is endemic, arriving with pine in the boreal forest at the end of the last ice age c. 8000 BC, along with a few Palaeolithic people.

I was fascinated by the enormous advances being made in the study of food allergies. Clare Mills, who gave the talk, is, among other things, co-ordinator of the EU integrated project EuroPrevall, and research is taking place in several European countries, as well as elsewhere in the world.

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