Some kiwi varieties may be less allergy-inducing

A small study led by Dr Karin Hoffmann-Sommergruber, an associate professor at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, has shown that the ‘gold’ variety of kiwi fruit may be less allergenic than the green variety known as Hayward. The kiwi fruit is now widely available and consequently with wider consumption has come increased incidence of allergic reactions including tingling, itchiness and inflammation in the mouth and throat, skin rash, stomach pain and vomiting and even a sudden drop in blood pressure and difficulty breathing.

Kiwi allergy has become one of the top 10 most common allergies in Sweden, France and Finland. The study assessed the tendency of six varieties of kiwi to provoke reactions in people allergic to the fruit. The six varieties included the Hayward, Summer 3373, Zespri Gold (Hort 16A), Jintao, and two species of Eriantha expected to come to market in 10 to 20 years' time. The participants all underwent skin testing where a thin needle was injected into the fruit’s flesh and then into the participants skin to gauge the immune system reaction.

The Hayward was the most allergenic: that is, it triggered the most significant skin reactions, and the Summer (light-green fleshed) and the Hort 16A (golden fleshed) had the mildest reactions. A sub-group underwent food challenge tests where they were fed small amounts of the varieties under medical supervision. The Hayward proved the most allergenic with two of the 11 participants having severe reactions, whereas neither the Summer nor the Hort varieties triggered severe reactions but just mild or moderate ones.

Previous research had indicated that the allergenicity of the major kiwi species varies, and Hoffmann-Sommergruber has found that the major allergy-triggering protein is in a 50 times higher concentration in green fleshed kiwis than the golden fleshed varieties. She added that further research is needed. People with pollen allergies are more likely to react to kiwi fruit, but the extent of kiwi allergy worldwide is currently unknown.

Source: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Online

Source full text: Reuters

First published in December 2010

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