As delicious as peanuts taste, they also happen to be one of the common allergy-inducing nuts. This basically means that people with a peanut allergy have to stay away from this food for the sake of their health.
However, the findings of a recent study by a University of Cincinnati toxicologist suggests that finding an ‘eliciting dose’ may help those who suffer mild or moderate allergic reactions to peanut.
The findings were published in the scholarly journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.
Even tiny amounts of peanut protein can lead to hives, itching, tingling in the mouth, shortness of breath or nausea within minutes for those who suffer from peanut allergies.
For individuals with severe peanut allergies, food-induced anaphylaxis can occur. It’s a life-threatening emergency that requires treatment with an injection of epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room. Food labels offer warnings such as “may contain peanuts” or “was processed in a facility that may process nuts.”
The warnings allow individuals with severe reactions to steer clear, but for consumers who may be able to tolerate a minimal amount of peanut protein without major incident the labels aren’t very useful, says Lynne Haber, PhD, a University of Cincinnati College of Medicine senior toxicologist.
But a new study that Haber has led may help change that situation.
Using patient data from multiple locations, scientists used mathematical models to estimate an “eliciting dose”—or the amount of peanut protein that will cause or elicit an allergic reaction in a certain percentage of peanut-sensitive patients, explains Haber.
The study reviewed the responses of 481 patients in double-blind placebo-controlled studies, who were exposed to increasing levels of peanut protein in a controlled clinical setting until the patient had an allergic reaction.
The dose calculated to elicit an allergic reaction in 1% of patients with a peanut allergy was 0.052 milligrams of peanut protein, about the weight of a single grain of salt, says Haber. The eliciting dose for 5% of patients was calculated to be 0.49 milligrams of peanut protein, or about the weight of a single grain of sugar, says Haber.
“Risk is based on a combination of how inherently hazardous something is, and how much of that substance someone is exposed to,” says Haber, an adjunct associate professor of environmental and public health sciences in the UC College of Medicine. “Arsenic is more toxic than sodium chloride, also known as table salt, but if you’re not exposed to any arsenic, it does not pose any risk.”
“The amount of exposure is also important in determining risk,” says Haber. “Water is healthy, but if you drink enough of it, it could kill you. There has been a move to shift to labelling that is based on a combination of the inherent hazard of a substance and how much of it is in a product.”