Food type has effect on allergen activity, suggests research

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Immune system Allergy

The type of food matrix an allergen is contained in may have important effects on the way it is digested and absorbed by the body, and should be considered when determining allergenicity levels, says new research.

The study, published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research​, reports that a protein-rich food matrix delays gastrointestinal digestion and epithelial transport of food allergens, “and thereby may affect their sensitizing capacity and clinical symptoms.”

The researchers, based at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, argued that because the food matrix has important effects on the effects of potential allergens, “the respective food matrix should be considered when the allergenicity of food allergens is determined.”

“A food matrix has a strong impact on gastrointestinal degradation and uptake of food allergens and thereby may have negative and positive consequences for susceptible individuals,”​ said the authors, led by Barbara Bohle.

“Matrices rich in proteins and carbohydrates may under certain circumstances endow secondary food allergens with sensitizing capacity. On the other hand, the presence of such matrices may occasionally also attenuate the severity of food-induced allergic reactions,”​ they added.

Food allergy

Food allergies are caused by an adverse immune response, usually to a food protein, when the immune system identifies a protein as harmful. Estimates of incidence vary, however the authors noted that global incidence of childhood food allergy is now believed to be at around 6%.

In recent years the sector of the food industry catering to allergy-sufferers – the ‘free-from’ market – has developed rapidly, with a recent Global Industry Analysts Inc (GIA) report predicting that the global market for food allergy and intolerance products will surpass $26 billion US dollars (11.2 billion euro) by 2017.

Study details

The research team studied the effects of food matrix on gastrointestinal proteolysis, epithelial transport and in vivo absorption of class 1 and class 2 food allergens, finding that the presence of hazelnut and peanut extracts, which served as protein-rich model food matrices, delayed gastrointestinal degradation and reduced epithelial transport rates of all allergens through the gut barrier.

Three model allergens with different susceptibilities to digestion enzymes were used in the study. The authors said that they found “a strong influence of a food matrix on the in vivo absorption of food allergens,” ​noting that the presence of a food matrix derived from hazelnut extract prevented simulated gastric and intestinal digestion of allergens.

“Based on the observations that a high protein content of the food matrix enhanced the stability against simulated gastrointestinal degradation, we consider carbohydrates and proteins to be mainly responsible for the protection of food allergens,”​ they added.

Source: Molecular Nutrition & Food Research
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100234
“A food matrix reduces digestion and absorption of food allergens in vivo”
Authors: V. Schulten, I. Lauer, S. Scheurer, T. Thalhammer, B. Bohle

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