Fiber and Allergy Prevention

High-fiber diet protected mice against allergy to peanuts.

If food is the new medicine it could mean a way to prevent allergies.

light brown mouse on hind legs with an apple behind it. the apple has a cocktail umbrella sticking out

A study from Monash University found that feeding peanut-allergic mice a diet high in fiber protected them against allergic reactions.

Allergies result from an overactive immune system. Instead of protecting you from an infection, the immune system reacts to something like peanuts or other foods as if the proteins from that food were microbial invaders. The result is a runny nose, itching, or in some cases, a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.

The study, led by Laurence Macia, PhD, of the University of Sydney, and immunologist Charles R. MacKay, PhD, was performed primarily by Jian Tan, a PhD student at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

Tan compared mice that were known to be allergic to peanuts. The mice were fed diets that were either very rich in fiber or deficient in fiber.

The mice fed the fiber-rich diet had fewer symptoms of a peanut allergy when fed a peanut extract. They were also less likely to develop anaphylaxis.

The scientists found that eating a high-fiber diet changes the “good bacteria” in the intestines. This good bacteria in the gut breaks down fiber into short-chain fatty acids.

The researchers found that short-chain fatty acids affect dendritic cells in the immune system. Dendritic cells control whether a person has an allergic response.

Dendritic cells also require vitamin A for optimum function. The scientists think patients who don’t have optimum levels of vitamin A–particularly infants and children–may be more susceptible to allergies.

These findings mean that allergy treatments could include probiotics to correct the microbiota in the intestines.

The study was published in the July 2016 issue of Cell Reports.

Funding for the study was provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia.

Information on conflict of interest was not available.

Monash University, “Diet high in fiber and vitamin A key to preventing allergies to peanuts and other triggers”
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “Allergies”
Cell Reports, “Dietary Fiber and Bacterial SCFA Enhance Oral Tolerance and Protect against Food Allergy through Diverse Cellular Pathways”