The Safety of Ingesting Almond Extract with Tree-Nut Allergies

Is Almond Extract Safe for People with a Tree-Nut Allergy?

Close up of sack of almonds
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Question:

I heard almond extract is safe for a tree-nut allergy. How could that be?

Answer:

The answer is "yes" and "no." Although it seems counterintuitive, ingesting almond extract for those with a tree-nut allergy can be safe. Why? Because most almond extract doesn't actually come from almonds.

Most commercial "pure almond extracts" are actually made from the kernels of peach or apricot pits. These kernels have the same flavor compounds as almond oil but they are less expensive to obtain and process.

Similar compounds can be derived synthetically in labs or from cassia (a plant with a flavor similar to cinnamon) to create artificial extracts.

But Don't Rest Easy

Does that mean you can always feel safe when you see almond extract on a list of ingredients? Not really.

The compounds released from peach and apricot pits are bioidentical to those in almonds, and there is little or no information about whether extracts derived from uit pits are safe for a nut-free diet. So proceed with caution.

While artificial almond extract doesn't have the flavor profile purists prefer, it has its upsides. It is considered a safe choice and it is almost always less expensive.

What Is a Tree-Nut Allergy?

Allergies Expert Dr. Daniel More, says, peanuts are different from tree nuts because they are actually a legume, rather than a true nut. That said, up to 50% of people with peanut allergies also have at least one tree-nut allergy.

 Nuts to be avoided with a tree-nut allergy include:

Walnuts: Walnut allergens are similar in structure to those allergens found in pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, castor beans, cottonseed and mustard, so these foods should be avoided as well.

Cashews: Cashew allergens are similar in structure to palm oil, macadamia nuts, peas, soybean and walnuts, so those foods should be avoided.

Almonds: An almond is actually a drupe and not a nut at all. A drupe means it has an outer fleshy covering over the hard-shelled nut, like nutmeg. Almond allergy may predispose a person to other tree-nut allergies, especially pistachio nuts.

Hazelnuts:  People with hazelnut allergy may also be allergic to coconut, cashews, peanuts, and soybean, given the similarity between the allergens in these foods.

Pecans: People with pecan allergy are at risk for allergies to walnut, given the similarities between the allergens in these tree nuts.

Chestnuts: Oral allergy symptoms from eating chestnuts can also be experienced by those with allergy to mugwort pollen, apples and peaches.

Brazil Nuts: People with Brazil nut allergy may also be allergic to walnuts.

Pine Nuts: Pine nuts are an ingredient in pesto sauce, which is an example of a "hidden ingredient" of which few people are aware.

Macadamia Nuts: There is significant cross-reactivity between the allergens in macadamia nuts and cashews, so a person is likely to be allergic to both of these tree nuts.

Pistachios: Hay fever to the pollen from the Parietaria weed, found in Europe, appears to predispose to pistachio allergy.

Coconuts: Coconut allergen is similar to those allergens found in hazelnuts and walnuts, and, therefore, a person allergic to these tree nuts may also be allergic to coconut.

Sources:

Karp, David. "What to Use When You Can't Use the Real Thing." February 20, 2002. Retrieved 6 Feb. 2009.

Roux KH, Teuber SS, Sathe SK. Tree Nut Allergens. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2003; 234-244.

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