Peanut and Legume Allergies

Boiled peanuts
Peanut allergy doesn't increase the chance of allergy to other legumes. Amar Lungare/Moment Open/Getty Images

A common question is, "I'm allergic to peanuts. Do I need to avoid other legumes?" The answer is probably not. While peanuts share similar proteins with other legumes (such as soy, peas, beans and lentils), most people with peanut allergy can eat other legumes. However, many people are told to avoid all legumes because allergy tests often show positive results to more than one legume. This is a result of cross-sensitization, meaning that the similar proteins found in legumes bind to the same allergic antibodies directed against peanut proteins.

However, many studies show that true cross-reactivity among various legumes, meaning that allergic reactions actually occur in peanut-allergic people when other legumes are eaten, is only 5%.

The one exception to the above rule is for lupine. Lupine is a legume commonly ground into flour or eaten whole in European countries. There appears to be a high level of cross-reactivity between peanuts and legumes, since up to 50% of people with peanut allergy experience allergic reactions after eating lupine.

If you are told that you have positive allergy tests to multiple legumes, you should check with your doctor before eating any of these foods. While cross-reactivity rates among legumes are low, your doctor will likely perform an oral food challenge to the legume that you are interested in eating to ensure that you are not allergic.

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    Sicherer SH, Sampson HA. Peanut Allergy: Emerging Concepts and Approaches for an Apparent Epidemic. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007; 120:491-503.

    Sicherer SH. Clinical Implications of Cross-Reactive Food Allergens. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001; 108:881-90.

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