More than a million Americans suffer from peanut
allergies, but ARS researchers are working to reduce the allergenicity. The
U.S. produces about 3 to 4 billion pounds of peanuts annually; 40 percent goes
into processed foods. Click the image for more information about
Natural Fruit Enzyme May Lessen Peanuts' Allergenic
By Erin Peabody
December 21, 2005
An apple a day keeps the doctor
away? Well, an enzyme naturally found in apples may at least hold the key to a
less problematic peanut--which is great news for the more than one million
Americans living with peanut allergies.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists have discovered that the enzyme responsible for turning apples and
other fruits brown when theyre sliced also has the ability to reduce a
peanuts allergenic potency.
About 1.5 million people in the United States and many others worldwide
suffer from peanut allergies. Nut allergies, like other food allergies, can be
life-threatening, so several ARS researchers have been on a quest to find a
Chung, with the agencys
Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La., discovered that the natural
fruit enzyme called polyphenol oxidase--or PPO, for short--triggers an
interesting chemical reaction when added to extracts from chopped-up peanuts.
Its similar to what happens when a just-cut apple or banana turns
brown. The slicing action releases the PPO found in some of the fruits
tiny cells, allowing the enzyme to mix freely with compounds in the
fruits other cells. Add oxygen from surrounding air, and the result is
oxidation--and a rather unappetizing, rust-colored apple.
Peanuts dont contain PPO, but when the enzyme is added to extracts
from ground-up peanuts, it also sets off the oxidation process. This oxidation,
which yields numerous volatile molecules, causes peanut proteins that were once
independent and pure to link up in unusual ways.
The proteins that PPO affects are the same as those that provoke an allergic
response in some people. So by shaking up the proteins original
structure, the PPO enzyme is also altering their allergenic properties.
Chung cautions that animal studies are needed to truly confirm the
enzymes effect on peanuts allergy-causing proteins. He also plans
to investigate whether or not PPO affects peanuts flavor and shelf life.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.