Food Allergy Consultant, Author, Blogger, Mother & Self-professed “Kitchen Geek” my website and media pages are a mixture of product reviews, recipes and advice mixed with a tinge of humor. I write, I cook and I laugh and I aim to make everyone else do the same. www.AllergyPhoods.com
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Allergic Reactions- How Much is Enough?
Much of a Specific Food Allergen Will Trigger An Allergic Response? New Study
Sheds Light. ~ Guest Post by Kathy Penrod
For many children who suffer from food
allergies, the only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to stick to a diet
that strictly avoids the allergen. Strict avoidance is necessary because
allergic reactions to food allergens can vary by individual. The severity of
the reaction in the same person may be different each time he or she is exposed and
the level of the allergen that causes a reaction can also vary. The uncertainty
that surrounds food allergy reactions often causes food-allergic children and
adults to be wary of even trace amounts of an allergen present in food, on
surfaces and in air particles. That uncertainty, coupled with unclear food
labeling practices, often causes fear about eating prepackaged foods, even when
those food items should be safe.
One example of this phenomenon occurs
when a food item does not contain any allergens in its listed ingredients but
is manufactured in a location that also manufactures food that does contain the allergen. These food
items sometimes carry a label that states the food item “may contain” an
allergen. So the question then becomes, is the food safe to eat or not?
But what if food-allergic children and
their parents could determine how sensitive they were to an allergen and what
level of the allergen would cause an allergic reaction? Professor Claire Mills
and a team of researchers from the Institute of Inflammation and Repair at the University of Manchester, located in the United Kingdom, have been working on a
solution to help bring clarity and consistency to the issue.
Allergic reactions occur when the immune system malfunctions in the presence of an allergen. Normally, the immune system protects the body from harmful substances like viruses and bacteria. But when the immune system malfunctions in the presence of certain food proteins, it responds inappropriately to the food protein, a substance most people's bodies perceive as harmless. Consequently, the body overproduces chemicals called histamines, which cause allergy symptoms like runny nose, itchy and watery eyes or swelling. Allergies may appear as external or internal symptoms and in any part of the body.
Researchers closely monitored the
participants’ allergic reactions and found what appeared to be baseline levels
of the five foods, which would cause a reaction in the 10 percent of
participants who were most sensitive to food allergens. In other words, the
participants who were most sensitive to the allergens reacted at specific
levels of allergen proteins. The results showed the following levels of
allergen proteins were needed to trigger a reaction:
·1.6-0.1 mg of
peanut, hazelnut or celery protein
·27.3 mg of finned
·2.5 mg of shellfish
The theory is that if the person is most
sensitive to allergens react at a certain level, anything less than that level
would be safe for food-allergic people to eat. Although the implications may be
compelling, there is no information on how
the researchers identified the people most sensitive to food allergens or how
their levels of sensitivity varied from others who are less sensitive to food
While the study was small, the intent was
to move toward helping people become better informed of their own sensitivities
to particular allergens and to help improve packaged food product labeling.
The study and its findings are focused
on Europe and the European populations but have implications for the United
States. The research is promising, but more large-scale studies are needed.
What are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your opinions & comment.
A little about the author
Kathy Penrod is the founder of My Kid's Food
Allergies—a website dedicated to keeping children with
food allergies safe and healthy through education and
awareness. The goal is to create
and maintain a site that provides the best and most recent information about
food allergies, a community of parents and other adults interested in learning
and sharing about food allergies and access to physicians and other food