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New Hope for Food Allergy Sufferers Comes from Fruit

Fruits and food allergy

There may be hope for the 15 million Americans who suffer from food allergies. The treatment may come from an already healthful food - fruit.

More than 170 foods are known to have the ability to cause allergic reaction in some people. The eight most common are peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, fish, shellfish and soy. Any food has the potential to produce a dangerous reaction in those who are allergic, but peanuts are known to be the most dangerous.

A therapy that is being studied to help patients better tolerate small amounts of the offending food (and therefore reducing its severity) is known as Desensitization Therapy. A food-allergic person is given small amounts under strict physician supervision in hopes that in the future they will be protected against potentially fatal reaction.

Clinical trials suggest that Oral Desensitization Therapy is effective in 70-80% of patients, provided that it is properly administered in a controlled setting. However, the most effective dose and time frame and whether the effects can ultimately lead to complete tolerance of the offending substance are yet to be known.

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In addition, says Mary Ann Lila, author of a new study published in the ACS Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the milled roasted peanut flour currently used in desensitization therapy can have severe side effects. Her team is developing a new type of flour that can help control food allergies without these effects.

In 2010, Nestle scientists published an animal study that found that polyphenols extracted from apples may reduce or prevent a response to food allergens. Dr. Annick Mercenier and team theorize that the substances may reduce the release of an allergic mediator by cells called effector cells, which are white blood cells activated by the presence of an allergen. Or the polyphenols may bind to the allergen itself, changing its structure and reducing the allergenicity of the protein.

Lila’s team is using a polyphenol from a different fruit (cranberry) with the hope that the same beneficial response will be seen in humans.

Food Allergic Patients and Families – this is an exciting study, but please do not use this information to feed your child a handful of cranberries or an apple in hopes that he or she can have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Do not attempt oral desensitization therapy on your own. It can be a life-threatening chance you are taking.

Journal Reference:
Nathalie J. Plundrich, Mike Kulis, Brittany L. White, Mary H. Grace, Rishu Guo, A. Wesley Burks, Jack P. Davis, and Mary Ann Lila. Novel Strategy To Create Hypoallergenic Peanut Protein–Polyphenol Edible Matrices for Oral Immunotherapy. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. April 23, 2014

Additional Resources:
AW Zuercher, S Holvoet, M Weiss, A Mercenier. Polyphenol-enriched apple extract attenuates food allergy in mice. Clinical and Experimental Allergy. June 2010, Volume 40, Issue 6, Pages 942-950.
T Magrone, E Jirillo. Influence of polyphenols on allergic immune reactions: mechanisms of action. Proc Nutr Soc. 2012 May;71(2):316-21. doi: 10.1017/S0029665112000109. Epub 2012 Feb 28.