Sleep deprivation and exercise can make people with peanut allergies more sensitive, according to a new British study
The team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital found that exercise and sleep deprivation each significantly reduce the threshold of reactivity (the amount of peanut needed to trigger a reaction) in people with peanut allergy, putting them at greater risk of a reaction.
Led by the allergy research team at Addenbrooke’s, and funded by The Food Standards Agency (FSA), the TRACE study is hugely significant, as one in every 100 adults and one in every 50 children have peanut allergies – the most common cause of fatal allergic reactions.
More than 126 peanut allergic individuals took part in the trial. Participants were given a peanut challenge where they were given increasing amounts of peanut flour to eat until they developed an allergic reaction which was treated quickly. This challenge was repeated when they were exercising and when they were sleep-deprived. The work, which could be applied to other foods, revealed that exercise, sleep deprivation or stress significantly reduce the amount of peanut required to cause an allergic reaction.
These findings will pave the way for better food labelling and greater understanding of the factors that can lead to allergic reactions.
“Precautionary allergen labels on food such as the commonly used ‘May contain traces of…’ are currently quite vague and not very helpful,” said Dr. Shelley Dua, lead investigator at Addenbrooke’s. “This is partly because until now we simply haven’t known enough about the amount of allergen which causes a reaction and how day to day factors like tiredness and exercise affect allergic reactions. This study takes us a long way towards building that knowledge and changing the way we label allergens making life easier and safer for allergic individuals.”
“It’s impossible to remove the allergy risk for people, but these findings give us essential evidence,” said Food Standards Agency Chair Heather Hancock. “In future, it could support precautionary allergen labeling so people will know exactly when a food poses a real risk to them which can increase the trust they have in their food.”
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