Roasting peanuts over allergy

While we pride ourselves on being rational beings who can understand the way the world works, it is mysteries that really fire our imaginations and lay hands on our souls. Where facts may bolster feelings of control it is mysteries that make us feel alive. The power of mystery is evidenced in how we maintain interest in things like the Loch Ness Monster, the Bermuda Triangle, the shroud of Turin, the search for Kardashian talent, and Donald Trump’s hair. It might not rate alongside some of these bafflements but a medical mystery has surrounded the prevalence of peanut allergy in the Western world compared to the East despite the fact that peanuts are just as popular in Asian countries. A new study though may have finally dispelled the mechanism driving this particular mystery.

In this study the researchers from the University of Oxford began by noting that emerging statistics from East Asia generally match the overall common food allergies in the West…with the striking exception of peanuts, which are consumed equivalently in both regions, but with peanut allergy rates being much higher in the West. They noted that allergies can have a variety of triggers including a genetic component but they claim to have found an environmental trigger.

For the study they exposed mice to either proteins from raw peanuts or proteins from peanuts that had been dry roasted. When the mice were then exposed to peanuts those who had been exposed to the roasted proteins had a much stronger immune response, which, if it translated into humans would correspond to a peanut allergy.

It seems that roasting, which takes place at temperatures from 160 degrees Celsius and upwards, causes changes to peanut proteins that in turn form advance glycation end products (AGEs) that in turn trigger a stronger immune reaction than do the orginal proteins in peanuts. So in Asian countries where peanuts tend to be eaten raw, boiled, or fried there may be less likelihood of developing an allergy than in the West where peanuts are often consumed roasted.

This is only a preliminary study but it may indeed explain the mystery of Western dominance in peanut allergies. At the least it is another brick in the wall of argument that suggests you might be best to go raw when you can, at least when it comes to food.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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