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Unusual Food Allergy Claims
Posted: 23 February 2009 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Is there such thing as a “corn allergy?” This is a tale I was told today by someone at the PTA meeting, and I am highly skeptical:

“When my daughter was little, she was so sickly. She missed more days of school than any kid in her class. She was tired and gaunt. Then I took her to this wonderful natural doctor, who told me that she had a corn allergy. We took corn and high fructose corn syrup out of her diet, and the doctor gave her vitamin drops that go under the tongue, and she miraculously recovered. It changed our lives forever. Turned out the whole family was allergic to corn, because we all stopped eating it, and we all felt wonderful.”

Other mothers started chiming in with other allergies including gluten, wheat, milk, etc. All things that should “never be given to children.” The mothers all clucked in agreement like so many hens. This sounds like that crap Jenny McCarthy is selling in her book, that her special diet of eliminating certain foods cured her son’s autism. (Which of course, was caused by vaccines…)

So these are all snobs in the $600-stroller-set reading the latest celebrity child rearing books. We all know what authorities celebrities are on nutrition and health, right? Apparently I’m some kind of loser mom for letting my kid eat Annie’s Organic Whole Wheat Macaroni & Cheese. It has this evil wheat stuff in it, and this evil dairy cheese stuff in it - who knew? (If you can’t see me rolling my eyes by now, they are up in my skull.)

Now I have never heard of a “corn allergy” is that something that is real? I did an internet search and was blown away at the number of results. Checklists saying “if you experience tiredness, aches, swelling, sleepiness, just about anything, you are allergic to corn!”

Come on, if these things were really causing kids to get sick, I’m sure pediatricians would be testing for these things, right? I have heard of the gluten allergy, which I believe can be serious, but there is a test for it. Dairy has a test too. What is this corn allergy thing? Nonsense, or a serious thing that for some reason I’ve never heard of?

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Posted: 23 February 2009 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I used some boolean search parameters and specified which site I wanted my information from, example: “corn and allergy site:nih.gov”. It looks like corn is an allergen but a less common less researched one. The test for corn allergy seems to be skin pric or atopy patch, and it is a test that is done after someone exhibits a food allergy not before.

Corn allergies are difficult to detect, and symptoms may vary from person to person. To find out whether corn is the culprit in your diet, see your physician for a supervised elimination diet. Corn oil contains very little protein; however, some sufferers report problems with corn oil consumption as well.

Univesity of Maryland: Corn Allergy

BACKGROUND: Although corn is often cited as an allergenic food, very few studies have been devoted to the identification of corn allergens and corn allergy has been rarely confirmed by double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC). Recently, Pastorello et al. (1) identified some salt-soluble IgE-binding proteins of corn flour as potential allergens. One of these, corresponding to corn Lipid Transfer Protein (LTP), appeared to be the major one. The aim of this study was to verify the clinical significance of the skin prick test (SPT) and CAP-FEIA CAP-System IgE fluozoenzyme immunosorbent assay (Pharmacia Diagnostic, Uppsala, Sweden) positivities to corn and to identify the presence of IgE-binding proteins in the corn flour salt-insoluble protein fractions (comprising up to 96% of the total protein) using sera of patients with DBPCFC-documented food allergy to corn. In addition the effect of cooking and proteolytic digestion on the corn allergens was investigated. METHODS: Sixteen subjects with SPT and CAP-FEIA positivities to corn flour were examined. Only six of them complained of suffering from urticaria and/or other symptoms after ingestion of corn-based foods. The patients were food challenged with cooked corn flour (polenta). IgE-binding proteins were detected by immunoblotting. The digestibility of the IgE-binding proteins was examined during a pepsin attack followed by a pancreatin digestion performed on a cooked corn flour sample. RESULTS: Oral challenge was positive only for six patients with symptoms after ingestion of corn. A 50 kDa protein, belonging to the corn Reduced Soluble Protein (RSP) fraction was recognized by the serum IgE of all the DBPCFC-positive subjects and resulted to be resistant to both heating and peptic/pancreatic digestion. SPT with the purified RSP fraction gave positive results for all of the DBPCFC-positive patients examined. CONCLUSIONS: SPT and CAP-FEIA positivities to corn flour had no clinical significance for most of the patients and food allergy to corn has to be proved by DBPCFC. A salt-unextractable protein of 50 kDa, belonging to the RSP fraction, represents a potential allergen in food hypersensitivity to corn because of its stability to cooking and digestion.

USDA: Corn Allergy Evaluation

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Posted: 23 February 2009 08:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Corn allergy (from what I know) is not a common allergy. I personally know of only one person with a documented corn allergy, and hers is more of an intolerance to more than small amounts. Soy is a MUCH more common allergen, and you would never hear of your yuppie friends giving it up!

You inherit the tendency to develop allergies, not a specific allergen. It would be highly unlikely that an entire family would be allergic to the same thing! It sounds like the quackery of the so called ‘yeast allergy’ that was circulation about 10 years ago. The only reason I can imagine an entire family ‘allergic’ to wheat is if there is a familial history of celiac disease, which is an entirely different issue, that should be diagnosed.

I inherited a tendency to be allergic from my parents, who both had allergies—some serious, and passed the tendency along to my sons. While one of my sons is allergic to a nut as am I, they are different nuts and that is the closest my very allergic family comes to an overlapping allergy.
Doctors, being (sometimes) imperfect, can sometimes be sucked in by quackery,like the rest of us.

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Posted: 23 February 2009 09:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks for the info guys! The only “corn allergy” info that came up in my web search were nonsense “health food” pages.

I had never heard of corn allergies until now. But apparently, it’s in vogue for posh moms. Sounds like another case of quackery - or perhaps just a grain of truth that snowballed out of control. I’m sure there are a few legitimate cases, which fed the rumors that millions of children with overprotective parents are afflicted.

wink

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Posted: 24 February 2009 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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As pointed out above, the allergy would probably be from a corn protein.  The idea of high fructose corn syrup being an allergen is really dumb.  First, honey is mostly fructose as I recall; second our gut enzymes break sucrose down to a mix of fructose and glucose (about the same as the corn syrup) for absorption.

From what I’ve seen, the effects of many food component allergies show up only after they learn that the food they just ate contains the material.  If no one tells them, they go one without any problems.

Occam

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Posted: 24 February 2009 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Occam - 24 February 2009 11:17 AM

As pointed out above, the allergy would probably be from a corn protein.  The idea of high fructose corn syrup being an allergen is really dumb.  First, honey is mostly fructose as I recall; second our gut enzymes break sucrose down to a mix of fructose and glucose (about the same as the corn syrup) for absorption.

From what I’ve seen, the effects of many food component allergies show up only after they learn that the food they just ate contains the material.  If no one tells them, they go one without any problems.

Occam

Thanks for the comment. I forgot to add that what is being reacted to is almost always a protein within the substance.

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Posted: 24 February 2009 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Good points! Yes, I’ve heard that allergies are to proteins.

In fact, when that mother brought up the high fructose corn syrup allergy specifically, the first thing I said (with a really odd raised eyebrow) was “Aren’t allergies usually due to proteins, not sugars?” Her answer was “I don’t know any of that, all I know is that my daughter got better, and she was so very sick before.” I’m sure it’s possible some “corn protein” or traces of it get left in during manufacturing, but enough to make someone horribly ill? I just don’t know. Soy, nuts, etc… there are other plant based foods that trigger allergies, and all of them seem to be high in protein.

Occam, I love your point about how many people claim to have food allergies only after they are aware they’ve eaten said food.

My husband was guilty of food allergy nonsense. He told me for years he was allergic to shellfish. Knowing this was a serious allergy to have, I never questioned it. One day, at a pediatric appointment, the doctor asked us if either parent had known allergies. My husband said “shellfish.” She asked him at what age he’d been diagnosed. He said “I was never diagnosed by a doctor, but the first time I ate shellfish as a teen, I threw up and had the runs.”

The pediatrician and I both had a chuckle at his expense.
LOL

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Posted: 24 February 2009 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Why you get down to the chemistry, your body runs on sugars. You break down carbs to form sugar to fuel the body. One of my siblings who didn’t have allergies decided one day that he was allergic to ham, but not bacon or any other part of the pig. We couldn’t convince him otherwise. His wife told me that she ignored his protestations and added ham to dishes with out his knowledge, and with out any sign of a reaction. When as an adult, he developed a severe allergy to a brand of detergent, I asked if he was ready to give up his fake allergy, now that he had a real one! LOL

But you can also have histamine reactions to heat, cold and even pressure or scratches to the skin, I believe it is a different mechanism of reaction and unlikely to cause death or injury more serious than discomfort (unless it is cold/heat induced asthma which can be serious).
We’d have to have one of the MDs weigh in on that!

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Posted: 24 February 2009 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Food allergies are quite common in veterinary patients. WIth the exception of a few breed-specific oddities (such as Gluten Sensitive Enteropathy in Irish Setters), they usually present as itchy skin, with secondary infections from licking and scratching. Dogs can be allergic to any protein, but of course the most common in the commercial diets are the most common clinically relevant allergens (beef, wheat, dairy, egg, and chicken in dogs, beef, dairy, fish and lamb in cats; corn is a recognized allergen, but not among the most common). In the rare cases of pure food allergy, the symptoms go away with elimination of the offending protein. Most real pateints have multiple problems, including concurrent environmental allergies, so in practice it’s a lot tougher to tell for sure if dietary manipulation is helpful.

There is, as one would expect, lots of mythology about dietary allergies among pet owners. Theories about “good” vs “bad” proteins, nonsense about raw dikets being less allergenic than cooked diets, and so on, are widespread. And for some reason, people always think an allergic reaction should happen when a new food is introduced, when in reality it is what you’re already eating that your body develops an allergy to over time.

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Posted: 24 February 2009 05:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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My lab developed an allergy to the brand of dog food used in the boarding kennel at the vet (the treatment ended up costing more than the boarding!). He has no problem with the dog food I give him at home. I now bring in his food when he has to be boarded, and hope they don’t change the ingredients! He developed a serious rash, with a secondary infection from biting and scratching the area. It WOULD be MY luck to have an ALLERGIC dog! LOL

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Posted: 24 February 2009 05:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Ah ha! That is the $100 per 40-lb bag dog food my dog is eating right now! The one where all the proteins are pre-broken down. It’s similar to that hyper-expensive baby formula for infants that are allergic to milk proteins?

We thought we’d ruled out the food allergy because he did not improve on the hypoallergenic food. (But I kept him on it because I bought a huge bag and he’s a small dog, it took a while to finish.) But as you said, it usually more than one problem. Due to all the scratching, he got an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection, which had to be cultured and given a specific drug. Then his blood work tested very low thyroid. So now he’s on Levothyroxine (sp?)

He cleared up wonderfully, and even lost a pound and trimmed down. Then when the hypoallergenic food ran out, I put him back on his old food for a few days, he broke out in a rash and started biting himself and scratching like mad - big red hives/bumps! Insanely scratching to the point where he bled! So either there was an underlying allergy all along, or one developed while being off his regular food for so long. The vet said we can switch from the super-hypoallergenic one and test drive the regular allergy formulas now, such as rabbit or venison, but I’m paranoid about changing his diet now that he’s eating something that “works.” Yes, it’s a $100 bag, but he’s a 13 pound dog, so it lasts a long time! And he must stay on the thyroid meds, and have his blood tested every six months from now on.

Speaking of dog allergies, what of this nonsense I see in the newspaper “Hypoallergenic puppies for sale! Safe for kids with allergies! They don’t shed!” Isn’t that nonsense? Isn’t it the skin flakes, not the fur, the kids are allergic to? Or does excessive shedding make allergies worse some how? I hear people all the time say “We got a poodle because my kid is allergic to dogs.” As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. I think it’s a marketing ploy and a misrepresentation of the word “hypoallergenic.”

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Posted: 24 February 2009 06:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Of course there are food preferences that aren’t allergies.  I had a Samoyed who detested carrots.  When he had some table scraps added to his dog food, I got a kick watching him raise his lips away from the offending food, carefully use his canines as tweezers, lift out the carrots, and drop them by the side of the bowl before he’d eat the rest of the food.

Occam

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Posted: 24 February 2009 08:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Occam - 24 February 2009 06:39 PM

Of course there are food preferences that aren’t allergies.  I had a Samoyed who detested carrots.  When he had some table scraps added to his dog food, I got a kick watching him raise his lips away from the offending food, carefully use his canines as tweezers, lift out the carrots, and drop them by the side of the bowl before he’d eat the rest of the food.

Occam

LOL

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Posted: 24 February 2009 08:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I have a coworker who insists that she is allergic to (all) perfumes. Whenever anyone comes to the unit wearing a scent, she pointedly puts on an isolation mask (as if it would help if she were really allergic). However, she has a home full of scented candles! I cannot convince her that a scent is a scent is a scent, unless she is allergic to the fixatives, which is probably not the case, because different perfumes will use different fixatives. She also loves scented soaps and fragrant flowers. I have scent allergies, but the allergies are to very specific scents, and it doesn’t matter if it is on a candle, soap or perfume, and an isolation mask certainly wouldn’t stop the reaction.

I am lucky that my dog is only allergic to the ‘special formula’ they use in the kennel, and not the cheap Costco brand he loves!

I used to have a Spitz that absolutely LOVED bananas, and would cry if she saw you with one, until she was given a piece. She never did that with any other food. She also liked peanuts in the shell, she would hold the peanut between her paws and carefully pull off the shell and eat the peanuts within!

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Posted: 17 April 2009 03:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I know this is anecdotal but….

A close friend of mine is a registered dietician and I have witnessed her corn allergy several times.

When she eats corn, she breaks out in a red rash all over her face and neck.  It’s pretty funny actually. smile

She loves corn so she’ll eat it if it’s a particlularly good corn dish and just put up with the rash.

And nobody else in her family is allergic to corn.

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Posted: 17 April 2009 05:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Herf - 17 April 2009 03:11 AM

I know this is anecdotal but….

A close friend of mine is a registered dietician and I have witnessed her corn allergy several times.

When she eats corn, she breaks out in a red rash all over her face and neck.  It’s pretty funny actually. smile

She loves corn so she’ll eat it if it’s a particlularly good corn dish and just put up with the rash.

And nobody else in her family is allergic to corn.

Why wouldn’t there be a Corn Allergy? Does anybody disput the fact of peanut allergies? Strawberries? Shellfish?

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