Gracilaria lemaneiformis, a possible cure for food allergies.

Gracilaria lemaneiformis, a possible cure for food allergies.

Edible seaweed are low-calorie and packed with nutrients. Now scientists have found that a type of commercial red macroalgae could help counteract food allergies. They report their findings, using mice, in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (May 17, 2016).

Food allergies are a major global health issue that can be life threatening. A 2014 study by researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital estimated that the condition affects about 8 percent of children and 5 percent of adults worldwide. In people who are allergic, certain compounds in food trigger a cascade of immune system reactions that lead to symptoms such as hives, wheezing and dizziness — and in the worst cases, anaphylactic shock.

Previous research has suggested that certain seaweed varieties contain polysaccharides with anti-asthmatic and anti-allergy effects. But no one had investigated whether similar molecules in Gracilaria lemaneiformis, a commercial variety of red algae, might have similar properties.

Guang-Ming Liu and colleagues wanted to find out. The researchers isolated polysaccharides from G. lemaneiformis and fed them to a group of mice sensitive to tropomyosin, a protein that is a major shellfish allergen. Another group of mice, also sensitive to tropomyosin, did not get the polysaccharides. After both groups were given the allergen, allergy symptoms in the treated mice were reduced compared to the untreated animals.

Further studying polysaccharides from G. lemaneiformis could help lead to a better understanding of food allergies and their prevention, the researchers say.

The funding for this research came from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Scientific Foundation of Fujian Province, the Marine Scientific Research Special Foundation for Public Sector and the Xiamen South Ocean Research Center.

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