Health & Nutrition Corner: Allergy update

What’s tasty, nutritious, healthy and comes in a compact and portable form? Why, a peanut, of course.

Peanuts, peanut butter and peanut products offer a full range of benefits and should be made part of a balanced diet. Did you know that peanuts and peanut butter provide more than a dozen essential nutrients, including, protein, B-vitamins, folate, Vitamin E and magnesium? And, they’re cholesterol and gluten-free.

While most can reap the many health benefits of this powerful nut, a very small portion of the population experience food-related allergies – and about 2 per cent experience peanut-related allergies. Food allergies are not an issue for the vast majority of the population, but for those who experience heightened peanut sensitivities, there could be an alternative in the foreseeable future.

As a result of numerous experimental treatments currently under investigation and testing, one particular therapy may allow those with sensitivities to enjoy a lifestyle without fear of experiencing an adverse peanut reaction.

The peanut patch, currently in clinical trials at research centres in France and the United States, is a patch that is applied to the skin like a Band-Aid1. Similar to the nicotine patch that reduces tobacco cravings, the peanut patch releases trace amounts of protein found in peanuts. The experimental treatment is based on desensitization, a method that exposes patients to minute doses of an allergen to help them develop a tolerance without triggering immune reactions. Results of the safety trials will be released this September, according to a statement from DBV Technologies, the Paris-based company that developed the Viaskin peanut patch.

According to an article in the Scientific American entitled Bring on the Peanuts: Food Allergy Therapies Move Closer to Approval, potential therapies – like peanut protein powders – are moving quickly through clinical trials and may be ready for regulatory evaluation within a year. These therapies are intended to be administered slowly so that one’s immune system begins to change and can start to tolerate what they were once allergic to2. So, it looks promising that those with food allergies can hold onto the hope that, some day, treatment using a peanut patch or powder may only require a quick trip to the drugstore.

1Globe and Mail, June 27, 2011
2The Scientific American, June 30, 2011