About 1.5 Million Americans Are Allergic to This Common Ingredient

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Sesame seeds are on hamburger buns, bagels, and crackers, and in cereals; the oil is commonly used in Asian dishes; the paste is an ingredient of hummus.

Even some non-food items, like cosmetics and nutritional supplements, might contain traces. The Food Allergy Research & Education site publishes a more comprehensive list of things containing sesame.

It’s hard to avoid in America today. But a new study reveals that 1.5 million American children and adults are allergic to sesame, potentially experiencing symptoms that can range from mild (like hives) to life-threatening (like anaphylaxis, which can cause difficulty breathing and dangerously low blood pressure).

The study, published on the Journal of the American Medical Association’s website, was based on a telephone and online survey by researchers from Northwestern University of more than 80,000 children and 50,000 adults. The results allowed them to extrapolate their estimate for the total number of Americans affected.

Unlike Australia and the European Union, the U.S. doesn’t require sesame labeling as it does with other allergens (peanuts, milk, soy, eggs, etc.). “It is important to advocate for labeling sesame in packaged food,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, director of Northwestern’s Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research. “Sesame is in a lot of foods as hidden ingredients. It is very hard to avoid.”

The study also determined that four out of five people with sesame allergy were also allergic to at least one other food, including peanuts, tree nuts, or eggs.

Allergies and their effects are often brushed aside, even though addressing these types of issues head on is important. Here are some other health symptoms people always ignore but never should.