Prevalence of Seed Allergies  

Hypersensitivity reactions to seeds, including sunflower seeds, cottonseed and linseed have been noted since the early 1900’s (1).  Sesame allergy was first identified in the 1950’s. The increases in the consumption of sesame seeds and its products have seen an increase in the degree of the reactions, particularly in children. In Australia sesame seed allergy is more common than tree nut allergy in infants  (0.42%) and is the fourth most prevalent food allergy in this age group (1).  

Seed allergies also have geographical variation.  In Israel, sesame seed allergy is the major cause of immediate IgE allergy and the third most common cause of IgE mediated food allergy.  It is the second highest cause of anaphylaxis behind cows’ milk in infants under 2 years of age (1).  In contrast to this, mustard seed is a major allergen in children in France, with an estimated prevalence of 1.1% in children and 0.84% in adults (1). 

Foods and Allergens

Seeds come from plants with different botanical classifications (1).  The allergens in seeds are spread amongst many different superfamilies, with researchers continuing to discover new allergens within seeds (1).   Many oils are cold pressed and contain traces of protein highlighting their potential allergenicity.

Diagnosis of Seed Allergies

Clinician’s and researchers have found skin prick test and specific Ig E test difficult to interpret with respect to the diagnosis of seed allergies, hence a detailed clinical history is paramount to the diagnosis (1).  

Management

At present the only effective and proven management of any seed allergy is the total avoidance of the offending allergen (1).  At present there appears to be no evidence, which support the avoidance of all seeds, only those known to trigger the allergic reaction (1). 

by Julie Albrecht Consultant Dietitian-Nutritionist  A.P.D. 

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