If strawberries were cream, they would be a lot more palatable to allergy sufferers, according to new research.
Researchers in Sweden have pinpointed a protein thought to be responsible for strawberry allergies which is associated with the fruit’s red hue.
Vulnerable individuals can suffer itching and swelling in the mouth and throat when exposed to normal strawberries, but don’t react in the same way with the rarer white varieties.
Writing in the magazine Chemistry World, Rikard Alm, one of the researchers from Lund University in Sweden, said it was not clear how the allergen was related to the strawberry’s colour. “We need to investigate more proteins,” he said. “We are now investigating the biological variation of the strawberry allergen, between different strawberry varieties and within one and the same variety depending on cultivation conditions.”
The suspect protein, one of thousands encoded by a strawberry’s genes, resembles a known allergen in birch pollen.
Food allergies, which are caused by an immune system reaction to certain molecules the body perceives to be a threat, kill about eight people a year in the UK.
People can be allergic to a wide range of foods, but 90% of allergies are caused by milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts and cashews), fish, shellfish, soya and wheat.
Peanut allergies can be especially serious.
Revision date: July 3, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.