Over the past few years, many claims have emerged about the hypoallergenic nature of various mammal milks. While this may sound like a ludicrous statement, new research shows that this may in fact be true. Scientist have found that the allergic nature of certain animal food proteins may lie in how related they are to a human protein…
While in theory, all proteins have the potential to become allergenic, a study out of the Institute of Food Research in Norwich and the Medical University of Vienna found that the ability of a particular animal food protein to trigger a food allergy depended upon its “evolutionary distance” from a human equivalent.
Overall, it seems that animal food proteins that are less than 54% identical to a human equivalent have the ability to become allergenic. This explains why cow’s and goat’s milk, which are under this range, are more quite prevalent food allergies. However, mare’s (horse) milk, which is up to 66% identical to human milk proteins, can often be tolerated. The more distant proteins may hinder the ability of the human immune system to discriminate between foreign and self-proteins.
While this alone is fascinating, their research went further. They identified three protein families to categorize most of the major animal-derived food allergens: tropomyosins, EF-hand proteins, and caseins. Their studies of these proteins included birds, fish, mammals, and the milk from rabbits, rats, camels, sheep, goats, cows and horses. To read in detail about these three proteins, visit Food Navigator.
The researchers feel that this brings them one step closer to a vaccine for food allergies.
Source: The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, “Evolutionary distance from human homologues reflects allergenicity of animal food proteins.” John Jenkins, Heimo Breiteneder, Clare Mills. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2007.08.019