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An Expert's POV on Gluten-Free and Soy Allergens

At the American Egg Board/Egg Nutrition Center, we are often asked if eggs should be considered gluten-free. With the incidence of gluten allergies on the rise, this is an important question that can have great health implications for many Americans.



According to Dr. Steven Taylor from The Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the University of Nebraska, eggs should be considered gluten-free. Dr. Taylor points out that many gluten-free products contain eggs and they do not test positive for gluten. Although it is likely that egg-laying chickens eat wheat grain containing gluten it is also likely that the birds digest the gluten and break it down to it's constituent amino acids, which in turn are used to build chicken and egg proteins. Little if any of the gluten appears to make it to the egg in an intact form.

Soy Allergens

This appears to be the case regarding soy allergenicity and eggs as well. Although one recent study indicated that small amounts of isoflavones from the soy in chicken feed apparently is transferred to the egg, protein fractions from soy are broken down during the digestive process and are not likely transferred to the egg or meat of the chicken. So folks with soy allergies can enjoy eggs without worrying about a potential allergic reaction.

Baked Egg Ingredients May Improve Tolerances

Egg allergy affects around 2% of children younger than 5 years old. While studies show that 80% of children eventually outgrow egg allergy, and most in the general population do so by school age, there are still many children retaining egg allergy into their teenage years. It appears that the longer the egg allergy persists, the less likely tolerance develops. This makes eating a variety of foods, in particular outside the home, very challenging, as eggs are present in many prepared foods.

According to a study published in the August 2012 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, research indicates that some egg-allergic individuals can tolerate baked egg (as in a muffin), as heating decreases allergenicity by altering the protein structure responsible for triggering an allergic reaction. Recognizing this, researchers characterized the immunologic changes associated with ingestion of baked egg and evaluated the role that baked egg diets play in the development of tolerance to regular egg.

Results indicated that the majority of subjects with egg allergy can tolerate baked egg. Long-term ingestion of baked egg is well tolerated and accelerates the development of tolerance to regular egg. These findings present an important shift in the treatment paradigm for egg allergy, as clinical management can improve the quality of life of egg-allergic children and ideally, promote earlier tolerance development.

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