Allergy update: Tannins show promise for allergen-free peanut products

Peanut allergy sufferers might be one step closer to tossing their EpiPens for good. Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) may have uncovered a substance with the potential to significantly reduce allergic reactions to peanut-based products.

Tannic acid – a commercial form of tannin, an antioxidant plant compound – is said to combine with peanut proteins to create an unbreakable chemical compound. In controlled lab tests, these compounds were shown to decrease the immunoreactivity of peanut butter extracts.

Here’s how it works: the human body’s digestive system maintains an acidy range that allows for allergens found in peanut proteins to be released. However, when combined with tannic acid, the reactivity of those allergens shrinks enormously. Specifically, peanut allergens remained bonded at pH levels of 2.0 and 8.0; pH levels in the human body’s digestive tract range from 1.0 to 8.0.

So what does all this mean? While further tests must be completed, the findings of the study suggest that in combination with tannic acid, it is possible for peanut proteins to pass through the body without causing an allergic reaction. This is great news for individuals with peanut allergies. Tannic acid might be the key to neutralizing the effect of peanuts in sensitive immune systems, and could also serve to balance out the way we eat, market and talk about peanuts.