Are Peanuts the Only “Bad Boy” Legume?

 In Blog, Peanut Allergy, Treating Food Allergies

While peanut allergies are among the most prevalent of food allergies on people’s minds, there are other legumes to which some children may have an allergic reaction.

Peanuts are often thought of as a nut such as cashews, walnuts, pistachios and other tree nuts, but peanuts are legumes. They grow underground and are a member of a different plant family that includes beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils and soy beans. If you are allergic to peanuts, you do not necessarily have a greater chance of being allergic to another legume (including soy) than you would to any other food.

Proteins associated with legume allergy belong predominantly to the family of seed storage proteins (albumins, globulins, prolamins). They are often found in high abundance and retain their allergenic properties even after heating.

Most (about 90%) peanut-allergic children are not allergic to other legumes; however, there are 10% who are. In the 1970s and ’80s, it was believed that children with peanut allergies should automatically avoid all legumes, but studies now reveal much lower percentages of true reactivity to these other products. Therefore, it is not suggested that they be automatically avoided, but you should always discuss this with your allergist first.

The ‘Everywhere’ Soybean

When you read food labels it seems as if soy is in everything; however, studies show both soy oil and soy lecithin can be safely eaten by children with soy allergy. Like other inexpensive vegetable oils, soy oil is made by heating the beans. The high heat destroys the proteins that cause allergy. Soy lecithin is a small molecule that is too small to trigger an allergic reaction. Again, discuss with your allergist to be safe.

There’s one legume called lupine that’s not as common in the American marketplace, but is used in cooking in some European countries. Texas Bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, are lupines but there are many other species in this plant family. Lupine is a legume commonly ground into flour or eaten whole in European countries. There appears to be a high level of cross-reactivity between peanuts and lupines, since up to 50% of people with peanut allergy experience allergic reactions after eating lupine.

For people living or traveling abroad who have peanut allergic children, it is recommended that you be on the lookout for this potential food allergen. Lupine is different from peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils and soy – legumes that kids with peanut allergy are usually fine with. Lupine is much more likely to be a problem for children with peanut allergy.

Learn more about food allergies and how they can be treated with Oral Immunotherapy (OIT). Call our local OIT doctor and see how more than 80% of our patients treated with OIT can now safely consume foods they once had to completely avoid.

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