Under the shell of peanut #3. Allergies

Last two Saturdays we talked about peanut “sensitive topics”, particularly, about the loss of vitamins, minerals, other constituents during peanut processing and aflatoxins in peanuts.

The last “sensitive topic” is PEANUT ALLERGY.

Peanut allergy in books and reality

Peanuts may trigger severe, even fatal allergenic reaction to individuals who consume it. Peanut allergy is one of the most severe food allergies which contributes to approximately 59 % deaths caused by food.

Do you remember a guy, Rémy Legaludec, the butler of Sir Leigh Teabing from The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, who was killed by the same Sir Leigh Teabing simply by putting some peanut powder in his cognac?

Seems to be a serious thing for concern. About 2.5% children and 1.8% of adults in the U.S. are allergic to peanut; and 2.2% habitants in Europe.

From the other hand, it is widely known – peanut butter is one of the favorite (if not the most) food product of people in U.S.

Peanut allergic reactions

  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • allergic dermatitis
  • in some cases even allergic shock and anaphylactic death

Cause of peanut allergic reaction

Seventeen specific proteins are responsible for peanut allergy.

Among these proteins, Ara h 2, and Ara h 6 have been considered as most potent peanut allergens in the U. S.

Methods to reduce the allergenicity of peanuts

  • GENETIC BREEDING
  • POST-HARVEST TECHNOLOGIES
    • treating peanut kernels with proteases (enzymes) such as chymotrypsin* and trypsin* effectively eliminate allergens Ara h1 and reduce Ara h2 in roasted peanuts
    • ultrasound pretreatment (enhances the allergen reducing efficiency of chymotrypsin and trypsin)
    • oral immunotherapy regimens for individuals with known peanut allergy (HOWEVER, these methods are doubtful, because may even increase allergic and anaphylactic reactions)

The role of digestive enzymes in peanut allergy

*Chymotrypsin and trypsin are digestive enzymes which are naturally synthesized by human’s pancreas. For the peanut treatment, synthetic enzymes’ analogs are used.

The very natural question may arise: “Well, if natural enzymes may help with peanut allergy, maybe it is just OK to have healthy pancreas? Maybe, when pancreas are overloaded by constant work, they cannot carry out their functions well? Maybe the whole suffer starts at this point?

Raw or roasted?

  • Roasting (thermal processing) of peanut was reported even to increase the allergenic properties
  • Some allergens are resistant to the breakdown by enzymes, particularly in the raw peanuts.

This only proves that legumes (including peanuts) should not be eaten raw. Other legumes, which are not safe to be eaten raw are kidney beans, fava beans, chickpeas, red beans, lentils, etc. Well, the exception may only be done for sweet green peas which are good to go raw.

What the consumer can do?

  • The best protection method for those allergic to peanuts is avoidance
  • Patients with potentially life-threatening food allergy require an epinephrine autoinjector, as well as training on its use.

The conclusions drawn and the assessment of the health benefits/risks are restricted to information appearing in the scientific literature


References

  1. Health aspects of peanuts as an outcome of its chemical composition by Rabiatu Bonku, Jianmei Yu. Food Science and Human Wellness 9 (2020) 21–30

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