This is a guest post by Walter A. Thanks for the information!!!
Tolerance for Milk in Baked Goods?
Just a few years ago, researchers discovered that a significant portion of children with milk allergies
can tolerate baked goods containing milk. Dr. Hugh Sampson, from the Mount Sinai School of
Medicine in New York, led the study based on an intuition.
An allergy comes about because a person’s immune system overreacts to something that person is
sensitive to. Most foods are actually complicated mixtures of lots of substances. Milk is a mixture of
proteins, fats, sugars, and other things, in water. Eggs are also complex, with many things assembled
together to form the entire egg. Most allergy sufferers are reactive only to a specific thing in the
mixture, called an allergen, and an allergen is often a type of protein.
Proteins are one of the basic building blocks of life – the cells in your body (and in plants and animals
we eat) are like little machines, and proteins are the parts. There are millions of types of protein, and
each has it’s own special shape that helps it do particular things. Bacteria and viruses have their own
special proteins, and our immune systems have evolved to recognize these foreign proteins and attack
them. In allergic individuals, something goes wrong, and their immune systems over-react to proteins
that would normally be harmless, such as those found in milk.
Each protein is like a tiny (microscopic!) piece of chain which is twisted up to give it a particular
shape, like a coil, a tube, a dumbbell, or something else. When it gets heated up, the chain becomes
loose and untwists, changing the shape of the protein. This is one of the chemical changes that occurs
when you bake things, and the reason that egg whites become solid and white when they are cooked.
Not all proteins change shape when heated, but many of those in milk do.
Because Dr. Sampson knew this, his research group tested milk allergy sufferers with
milk-containing baked goods, including muffins and waffles. They found that 75% of milk allergy
sufferers were able to tolerate them without any allergic reaction. Even more interesting, after several
months of eating baked goods, many of these people lost some sensitivity to raw milk itself, suggesting
that the immune system of these people could be trained by exposure to milk in the cooked products.
The reasons not all people can tolerate milk in baked goods are twofold:
– Some allergic people’s immune systems react to the protein whether it is in its original shape or not.
In this case, heating it does not help.
– Not everyone is allergic to the same milk allergen, and some of these milk allergens do not change
shape when they are heated.
However, many allergic people will tolerate baked goods, so this is very exciting news, and may lead
to research that helps other kinds of allergies. It is very important that you talk to your allergist before
attempting to expose an allergic person to baked products in this way. They can help with allergy tests,
and can ensure that the introduction is done in a safe way.
Guest Post by: Walter A.
Nowak-Wegrzyn A, Bloom KA., Sicherer SH, Shreffler WG, Noone S, Wanich N, Sampson HA.
(2008) “Tolerance to extensively heated milk in children with cow’s milk allergy”, Journal of Allergy
and Clinical Immunology 122(2):342-347.