If You Want to Avoid Triggering a Peanut Allergy, Don’t Roast Your Nuts

A peanut allergy can make certain normal situations incredibly difficult for sufferers, but now new research gives insight into precisely which kinds of nuts can be particularly dangerous, especially for acute allergy sufferers.

In recent years, scientists have become interested in the fact that peanut allergies are more common in the West than in Asia. The reason for this isn’t immediately apparent because nuts are an ingredient in many East Asian foods and are consumed in roughly equivalent amounts in both regions — but now researchers believe that it could be the way in which people in the West prepare nuts, in particular the way in which we tend to roast nuts for snacks, that might make the nuts more potent and more dangerous for people with nut allergies.

The research, conducted by scientists from the UK and published this month in the journal Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that roasting peanuts creates a chemical change that appears to provoke a stronger immune response.

The researchers tested this by exposing mice test subjects to both raw and roasted peanuts. They then observed the sample’s reactions when they were later given another exposure experience. The researchers were able to confirm that the protein changes in the nuts, caused during the roasting process, appear to prompt the immune system into giving a stronger response after that initial first exposure.

This translates to the distressing and even dangerous symptoms that people with a peanut allergy suffer. These can include more minor symptoms, such as skin rashes or irritated eyes and sinuses, to much more extreme reactions such as localized swelling that can cut off the airway, and anaphylaxis which, if not treated promptly, can lead to death. A peanut allergy can be so severe for some people that just being in the near vicinity to peanuts, or coming into contact with someone who has just handled peanuts, can put them at risk.

The researchers say they believe that this is the first time that any research into peanut allergies has been able to give an insight into how preparing peanuts might change the odds of provoking a reaction, and as such the study is being treated with marked interest. However, this is early stage research and more tests will need to be carried out to thoroughly investigate this link. All the same, the researchers believe that if future tests confirm this insight, it could open up ways in which to grow and prepare peanuts that make them less risky for allergy sufferers.

What’s interesting about this study is that we know that East Asian foods do use cooked peanuts, but that they are usually fried or boiled at much lower temperatures than what is used in the roasting process. Roasting exceeds 320 degrees Fahrenheit, but it only takes temperatures of 266 Fehrenheit for the protein change to occur that seems to spark more aggressive reactions. If we could find a way of roasting at a much lower temperature, then that might be one way we could reduce the risk for sufferers.

The researchers are also investigating whether it might possible to breed a new strain of peanuts that do not have these potentially dangerous proteins in them, or at least a crop that doesn’t react the same way when roasted.

This follows research published earlier this year that showed that exposing young children to peanuts, and even older children who have a peanut allergy, could under controlled conditions lead to a reduction in symptoms of peanut allergies. Obviously, this isn’t something we can yet use to treat ourselves — because to do so would be dangerous — but it does put on the horizon the possibility of an immunotherapy treatment in the not too distant future. To find out more about that research, please click here.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

45 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

SEND
Jeanne R
Jeanne R11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

SEND
Jeanne R
Jeanne R11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

SEND
Jeanne R
Jeanne R11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

SEND
Jeanne R
Jeanne R11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

SEND
ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA SOMLAI4 years ago

thank you

SEND
Julie W.
Julie W4 years ago

This doesn't answer the question as to why people are allergic to peanuts in the first place. This is relatively new, as a generation or two ago kids had no problems eating peanuts. What happened?

SEND
Anna Bennett
Anna Bennett4 years ago

I have a nut allergy but if finding out more about it means testing on animals, I don't want to know.

SEND
Jan N.
Jan N4 years ago

If I had nuts I would never roast them.

And now I have the Slap Chop "You're gonna love my nuts" song stuck in my head.

SEND
judith sanders
judith sanders4 years ago

The way we process peanuts alters the shape of the proteins in the peanut. When we are allergic to a food, it is because our immune system is triggered into action by a particular protein. If we were reacting to a pesticide, that is different, a reaction to a toxin.
http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/food-allergies.aspx

It would be a lot easier to change commercial processing of peanuts, instead of having to develop a vaccine or other medical treatment. You'd think the producers would be glad to change instead of losing so many thousands of customers, but it's all about the bottom line.

As Joanne D. pointed out, peanuts are a legume, not a nut.

SEND