Fighting allergies — with a handful of seaweed?

[UK] Living with an allergy is becoming commonplace in the modern world. And while for many people this might mean nothing more than a runny nose during the pollen season, for others the condition can be life threatening.

Having a food allergy means being constantly aware of what and where you eat. And even then, unscrupulous chefs or restaurant owners can play Russian roulette with your life.

But a recent paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that one answer to fighting allergies could lie in the seaweed found on the seashore.

More than a runny nose

The charity AllergyUK reports that up to 35% of people worldwide will suffer from an allergy at some point in their lives — and the rate is increasing. While the increase was initially seen in developed countries in Europe and in the US, the increase in allergy suffers is now seen in developing countries too.

Recent studies have highlighted an increase in people suffering food allergies — and at the moment science doesn’t have the answer as to why allergic conditions are increasing. There are several factors that are thought to play a role in why some people suffer from allergic reactions:

  • Genetics can play a part with some people’s genetic make-up meaning they are more susceptible to developing allergies.
  • Some researchers think that we need to come into contact with micro-organisms and bacteria as babies develop to build up a better immunity to the environment,
  • Eating more processed food and changes in the environment could increase susceptibility to allergens.

Having an allergic reaction to a foodstuff can be life threatening — with some people suffering anaphylaxis which can lead to death. Recognising and responding to anaphylaxis is covered on the AllergyUK website.

Since we don’t know the cause we have to look for ways to manage food allergies — enter seaweed.

Seaweed reduces the risk?

Seaweed is a staple food in Asia and has a niche market as a health food in the West. Research has noted that sugars found in some types of seaweed might provide anti-allergy properties — but until now, no one had tested the properties of the commercially available red algae Gracilaria lemaneiformis.

This is what the writers of the paper referenced above set out to do. The team isolated polysaccharides from G. lemaneiformis using water extraction and ethanol precipitation followed by column chromatography. The use of chromatography columns to separate carbohydrates is the subject of this article, HILIC Separation of Carbohydrates using BEH Amide Particle Technology.

The separated polysaccharides were then given to mice sensitive to tropomyosin — a protein that is a shellfish allergen. A control group did not get any polysaccharides. After both groups of mice were given shellfish — the team found that the allergy symptoms were reduced in the mice that had the polysaccharides compared to the control group.

The team hope that the research gives a better understanding of allergic reactions and how we can control them.

 

View original article at: Fighting allergies — with a handful of seaweed?

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