Why Roasted Peanuts Might Make You Sneeze: The Crunchy Truth About Allergies

Peanut allergies have puzzled medical researchers for years, mainly because they are a much bigger issue in the Western world than in East Asia. It’s time to shed some light on this mystery and reveal why peanuts can be so problematic for some of us.

Researchers from Oxford University in England conducted a lab study that found the dry-roasting process, a common method in the U.S. and Europe, creates substances in peanuts more likely to trigger allergies than raw peanuts. These substances are a result of chemical reactions caused by the high temperatures during dry-roasting. The compounds interact with immune cells, priming the immune system to unleash a severe response the next time you eat peanuts.

Why Do People in East Asia Seem Unaffected?

Compared to their Western counterparts, people in East Asia experience significantly fewer peanut allergies. The reason may lie in the way peanuts are consumed. Unlike in the U.S. and Europe, peanuts in East Asia are typically eaten fried, boiled, or raw instead of dry-roasted. This difference in peanut consumption appears to have a significant effect on the prevalence of peanut allergies.

It’s important to note that this discrepancy between populations isn’t observed in other food allergies, suggesting that the dry-roasting process plays a unique role in developing peanut allergies.

More Pronounced Reactions in Lab Animals

The lab study at Oxford University exposed lab animals to both dry-roasted and raw peanuts. The results showed a much stronger immune reaction to peanuts in the animals exposed to dry-roasted peanuts compared to those who had only been exposed to raw peanuts.

Researcher Quentin Sattentau claims, “This is the first time, to our knowledge, that a potential trigger for peanut allergy has been directly shown.” Amin Moghaddam, another researcher, adds that environmental triggers and family genetic background are major factors contributing to allergies. But in the case of peanut allergies, they believe that the high-temperature dry-roasting process might be the environmental trigger.

Implications of the Study

This new information may have significant implications for the food industry and how peanuts are processed. If high-temperature dry-roasting is indeed the environmental trigger for peanut allergies, there’s potential for changes in peanut production to minimize the risk of developing an allergy.

For instance, companies could turn to frying, boiling, or consuming raw peanuts instead of dry-roasting them. Moreover, parents who have a family history of peanut allergies or other food allergies might want to consider introducing their children to peanuts in a different form than dry-roasted. These changes could lead to a decline in peanut allergy cases in the future.

However, it’s worth noting that this lab study was conducted with animals, and there may be differences in how humans react to peanuts. Further research on this topic is necessary to determine the precise causes of peanut allergies and the potential for prevention.

What Can You Do if You Have a Peanut Allergy?

In the meantime, if you or a family member has a peanut allergy, it’s essential to be vigilant when consuming foods that might contain peanuts. Avoiding peanuts is not always easy, as they can be present in many processed foods like baked goods, salad dressings, sauces, and more.

Consider reading labels carefully and asking about food preparation when dining out. If you’re unsure about an item’s ingredients, it’s better to err on the side of caution and avoid it.

Also, discuss the allergy with friends, family, and coworkers, so they’re aware and can help avoid potential exposure to peanuts. It’s vital to be prepared in case an allergic reaction occurs. Keep an epinephrine auto-injector, like an EpiPen, within reach and know how to use it properly. It may save a life in the event of an allergic reaction to peanuts or other allergens.

Conclusion: There’s still more to learn about peanut allergies and their causes, but this research from Oxford University brings us one step closer to understanding why they’re more prevalent in certain parts of the world. Adjusting the way peanuts are processed and consumed could make a real difference in reducing the number of peanut allergy cases in the future.