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Allergy Diagnostics

Good News for Those With Nut Allergies

2 months ago

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Posted on Apr 24, 2017, 10 a.m.

People who are allergic to one type of nut are usually told to avoid all types of tree nuts, however, this may be an unnecessary caution.

Here are some nutty facts for you to consider. Nuts that we eat are called culinary nuts and they are the fruits or seeds of plants. They are known for their fat content, usually classified as "healthy fat", although not all nuts are high in fat. There are four categories of culinary nuts:

  1. True or botanical nuts which are dry and hard-shelled. Hazelnuts, acorns, and chestnuts fall into this category.
  2. Drupes which have fleshy fruit surrounding a stone, or pit, and contain a seed. Almonds are an example.
  3. Gymnosperms which are naked seeds like pine nuts.
  4. Angiosperm seeds which are unenclosed seeds within a larger fruit like peanuts.

Nuts have been consumed by humans all over the globe for thousands of years, as snacks, as garnish, and to add flavor to all kinds of dishes. Today there are eleven kinds of nuts that make up most of the nut market globally.

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Coconuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts

That’s all great news for those who love nuts and regularly consume them, but there are many who have nut allergies. I fact, “in the U.S., approximately three million people report allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. Studies show the number of children living with peanut allergy appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008.”

Conventional wisdom says that if someone is allergic to one type of nut, they should avoid all nuts. However, in a new study conducted by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), 109 patients who were allergic to nuts were tested.  The patients in the study were given skin and blood tests to determine if they were allergic to nuts they had never eaten before. The tests showed that indeed, they were sensitive to these other nuts, but then they were given an oral challenge. When asked to eat small amounts of these nuts half of the participants had no adverse reaction.

The symptoms of nut allergies should be taken seriously. At the worst end of the reaction spectrum, anaphylaxis can occur, while other symptoms range from vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, pain, and itchiness. However, the idea that if you’re allergic to one kind of nut, you’re allergic to them all might not be as clear cut as was previously thought. In addition to skin and blood tests, people with nut allergies might consider what the experts call an oral food challenge, eating small amounts of nuts to test for reactions.

All of this could be good news for people with an allergy to one type of nut. They may be able to find other nuts to include in their diets. This is especially good news considering that tree nuts may reduce cancer risk.

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