Fighting Peanut Allergies With Peanuts

By Breanna Draxler
Jan 10, 2013 9:54 PMNov 19, 2019 9:31 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

How do you treat a peanut allergy? Unfortunately for sufferers of this nut intolerance, you don't. There is no treatment currently available, but a new study suggests that being exposed to small amounts of peanut protein over time increases one's peanut tolerance. A lot.

Researchers figured this out using a common allergy therapy called sublingual immunotherapy

, which is a fancy way of saying they put a little bit of peanut powder under 20 allergic people's tongues. The exposure was repeated every day for about a year. The longer participants were exposed to the peanut powder, the less sensitive most participants became to it. Before the therapy began, researchers needed a baseline for peanut tolerance, so participants consumed a diluted form of peanut protein until they had an allergic reaction. Researchers made sure not to use any participants with a history of life-threatening allergic reactions. At the outset, the median tolerance of the 14 participants who responded to treatment was 3.5 mg. After 44 weeks of peanut therapy, the median increased to 496 mg. Of the participants that continued the study for another 24 weeks, the median jumped to 996 mg. That means the test subjects who responded to treatment could tolerate a whopping 285 times more peanut protein than before. A single peanut has about 161 mg of protein, according to a previous study

, which means participants still could still only handle about six peanuts' worth of the stuff. And desensitization to the protein is not the same as tolerating an actual peanut, so participants won't be eating PB&Js anytime soon. Still, in a medical testing setting, the results are encouraging. While an apple a day may keep the doctor away, a daily dose of peanut powder may do more for sufferers of peanut allergies. Image courtesy of Dan4th / Flickr

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.