Growing consumption of plant-based foods could be responsible for an explosion in cases of an allergy linked to pollen.
The Guardian reported this week that cases of pollen food syndrome (PFS) have risen markedly in recent years as a result of global heating, worsening pollution and changes in pollen patterns, citing Dr Isabel Skypala, the only consultant allergy dietician in the NHS.
Attacks of PFS are usually triggered by eating raw nuts, fruit and vegetables but can also be linked to foods such as soya milk, avocados, jackfruit, edamame beans and smoothies, which are popular with vegans and vegetarians.
PFS is caused by unstable pollen antibodies found in proteins in some raw – but not cooked – fruits and vegetables, nuts and soya.
Skypala told the paper that the last research into the prevalence of PFS in Britain, which she undertook in 2008, showed that 2% of adults had it, including 4% of people in London. She said she suspected cases had probably doubled since then.
Skypala added: “There’s a perfect storm of increasing PFS at the same time as you have a very great increase in people eating fruits and vegetables,”, albeit she noted that it is a person’s inherent sensitivity to pollen, rather than the fact they follow a meat-free diet, that puts them at risk.
Most PFS sufferers experience mild symptoms such as itching or tingling in or around their mouth, however growing numbers are said to experience nausea, vomiting and even difficulty breathing because their throat swells up.
Foods that can trigger PFS include raw apples, pears, kiwi fruits, strawberries, plums, cherries, cherry tomatoes, celery and carrot, according to the Anaphylaxis Campaign.
“The rising prevalence of PFS comes at a time when there is a worldwide change in dietary habits, with more people adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle,” the charity told The Guardian.