Many people have delayed anaphylactic responses and can't seem to trace them back to the triggers. But scientists from several institutions, including the University of Tennessee, University of Virginia, and the John James Medical Centre in Australia, conducted a study examining the experiences of 60 people who had unexplained reoccurring anaphylactic reactions to see if any patterns existed.

After reviewing the facts, researchers concluded that the common denomination seems to be a variety of meat products, including beef, pork and lamb. These all contain a carbohydrate called alpha-gal, which can trigger a serious immune system reaction. Further, the scientists discovered that this response can be delayed for as long as six hours after consumption of the food, which further complicates the diagnosis.

The Significance

These findings, which were released at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) Annual Meeting in the winter of 2010, are especially significant because when people experience an anaphylactic reaction, subsequent attacks may be even more serious and need to be avoided as much as possible. This makes it quite important to narrow in on an exact cause. 

The Study Details

In the cases of all 60 patients, the scientists found a high level of IgE (Immunoglobulin E) to the carbohydrate contained in meat following exposure to it. Further, in most cases, this elevated IgE level didn't exist when the meat was gone. This is strong evidence to back up the theory of a meat allergy causing the reaction in these participants.

What You Should Know

This information can also be important to you if you suffer from serious reactions after meals. If you've never considered the possibility that you could have a meat allergy, it could be a good idea to talk to your doctor to find out what the likelihood is. It can also be very helpful to keep a diary of what you eat and when daily. This way, if you do experience a reaction later and don't know what it's from, you can provide this information to your doctor and together, you can help to identify the possible causes.

If it seems that a meat allergy is likely, your doctor may also want to perform a blood test to see if you have a high level of antibodies to the carbohydrate that can cause the immune system response.

A Final Note

While having a formal diagnosis can help you to know what you can, and cannot, safely eat, if you think a meat allergy is possible, you should stay away from meat products and carry an Epi-pen until it is confirmed that this is not the case.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology