More than 3 million people in the US report having an allergy to peanuts—a number that has gone up dramatically in the past twenty years. A recent study led by Soheila J. Maleki, PhD of the USDA Agriculture Research Service found that roasting peanuts—the most popular preparation for this legume that masquerades as a nut—increases the ability of peanut allergens and immunoglobulin-E to bind together. Twelve allergens have been identified in peanuts so far, each with varying degrees of allergenicity.
Benchtop Autoclaves Make All the Difference
Maleki’s team also found that autoclaving peanuts in a benchtop autoclave for thirty minutes significantly reduced the ability of the peanut allergens to bind to immunoglobulin-E—a result in line with similar findings in other legumes. They likewise confirmed that, in sensitive individuals, autoclaved peanuts were less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Another unexpected benefit the scientists found was that the proteins in autoclaved peanuts unfolded, making them easier to digest for everyone.
The implications of these findings are huge, given how pervasive peanut allergies have become—and how deadly they can be. Maleki is hopeful that processing peanuts with a benchtop autoclave—perhaps combined with roasting—will make peanuts safer for those with allergies, while maintaining the flavor people love.