One study in 35 adults allergic to fruits and vegetables

Two to four percent of adults are allergic to foods of various kinds. For the first time, French pulmonologists have shown that these allergies are associated, in more than half of cases in adults, with changes in the bronchi. Between food allergies and asthma, the differences would be more tenuous ...

Asthmatics have a more reactive digestive mucosa

Food allergies are common. In young children, they often develop in response to proteins from cow's milk, egg white and substances contained in peanuts. In adults, all kinds of foods can be involved.

The study continues

The work * carried out by the team of Professor Benoît Wallaert in Lille, was carried out in 19 women and 16 adult men, aged on average of 34 years. These people all had allergies to vegetables such as carrots, celery, tomatoes or fruits such as kiwis, bananas, peaches or strawberries. These allergies were manifested by a rather banal inflammatory skin disease, urticaria, digestive disorders such as stomach upset or diarrhea, but also sometimes by more serious reactions such as edema of the larynx or even signs of anaphylactic shock.

Two groups of patients were formed

Allergy is foodborne, but bronchi are also affected

Pneumologists in Lille expected adults with asthma or an allergic cold to develop an exaggerated bronchial response to the administration of a molecule called methacholine. The latter causes them to shrink and, as a result, a decrease in expiration capacities.

If this test proved positive in such patients, the surprise was in the second group. Although they had never developed respiratory allergies, their limbs had an exaggerated and long-lasting reactivity of the bronchi in fairly high proportions (10 positive responses out of 19 in this population of patients, ie 53%, compared with 13 out of 16 in the first Group of patients, or 81%).

For Prof. Benoît Wallaert, the explanation lies in the fact that "a common response of all the digestive and bronchial mucous membranes can develop in the face of an allergen". In favor of this hypothesis, the data of a study carried out four years ago by the Lille team. Indeed, it had shown that asthmatics present abnormalities of the digestive mucosa and often complain of gastrointestinal problems.


The pathological phenomenon therefore occurs in both directions. Adults allergic to food have abnormally reactive bronchi, even though they do not complain for difficulty breathing. And, symmetrically, asthmatics have a digestive tract more sensitive to inflammation.
Disturbances in the equilibrium of immune cells could explain this state of affairs in these two types of allergic patients.

"The 35 adults in the study will now be followed on a clinical and respiratory basis, notably to determine whether they develop asthma," said Dr. Thierry Perez, who also participated in the study.

The question that Lille's respirologists are trying to answer is whether exaggerated reactivity of the bronchi without a history of respiratory disease favors the subsequent development of asthma in these patients who are allergic to food. A positive response would make it possible to consider preventive treatment for these patients.

* European Respiratory Journal, December 2000, Vol. 16, No. 6.

Allergy treatments

One of them having previously developed allergic rhinitis or asthma, the disease being then often related to mites, tiny animals contained in bedding (16 people), the other lacking such antecedents (19 subjects). Code>