Key Allergens

The key food allergen in sunflower seed allergy is Hel a 3. Hel a 3 is a lipid transfer protein (LTP). These proteins are resistant to heat and are found in many types of plants. Patients suffering from a more severe allergy to cooked fruit may be sensitised to this group of proteins.

There are 3 other defined allergens and they are all linked to airway allergies for sunflowers.

Hel a 2 is a profilin protein and Hel a 6 is a Pectate Lyase. Profilin proteins are considered panallergens as those sensitised to them can get allergic reactions to multiple foods or pollens containing them.

Sunflower oil is highly processed, but those who are very sensitive to lipid transfer proteins may still have allergic symptoms to sunflower oil.

Sunbutter is a peanut butter alternative for those people suffering from peanut allergies. The main ingredient is sunflower seeds. There is usually a lot of cross reactivity between nuts and seeds and sunflower seeds have been shown to contain 2S seed storage proteins which are the main protein responsible for causing nut allergies. Some people allergic to nuts are allergic to the LTP and profilin proteins in nuts, these people may have cross reactions with sunflower seeds.

Associated Syndromes

This allergy can be loosely linked to LTP syndrome. You may be suffering from LTP Syndrome if you have reactions to various fruits, vegetables and nuts and your reactions continue to be severe after you have discarded the peel and have cooked the food.

Contact with sunflowers can also cause contact allergic dermatitis due to the sesquiterpene lactones in the plant.

Cross Reactivity

Common foods involved in LTP allergy include kiwi, strawberries, sunflower seeds, walnut, apple, mulberry, banana, pea, apricot, cherry, plum, almond, peach pomegranate, raspberry, tomato, grape, celery, peanut, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, chestnut, lemon, tangerine, orange, hazelnut, lettuce, lentils, lupin, green bean, pear, mustard, wheat and maize.

Other foods containing 2S seed storage proteins are peanuts, cashews, brazil nut, mustard, pecan, hazelnut, soya beans, walnut, pistachio, sesame, almonds, kiwi, turnip, pumpkin, sichuan pepper, rapeseed, buckwheat, flaxseed, castor beans, mung bean, chickpea and pine nuts.

If you are affected by the pollen of sunflowers then you may also react to the pollen of these plants which also contain airborne profilin proteins. These are pigweed, ragweed, wormwood, birch tree, hemp, crocus, olive rice, grass, plantain, poplar, mesquite, oak tree and maize (corn). Airborne pollen which also contains pectate lyase includes cypress, ragweed, wormwood and cedar trees.



DermNet NZ - Sunflower

DermNet NZ - Compositae Plant Allergy

Allergen Encyclopedia - Sunflower Seeds

Lipid Transfer Proteins (LTP Syndrome)

Understanding Your Sunflower Allergy

Allergy information for: Sunflower seed (Helianthus annuum)

ASCIA - Peanut, Tree Nut and Seed Allergy

Anaphylaxis Campaign - Vegetable Oils

Articles and Journals

Lipid Transfer Protein allergy in the United Kingdom: Characterization and comparison with a matched Italian cohort, 2019

Sunflower seed allergy, 2016

Hypersensitivities to sesame and other common edible seeds, 2016

Allergy to sunflower seed and sunflower butter as proposed vehicle for sensitization, 2015

Sunflower Seed Food Allergy as a Co-allergy With Peanut, 2007

Sunflower Seed Allergy, 2006

Influence of refining steps on trace allergenic protein content in sunflower oil, 2000

Sunflower oil is not allergenic to sunflower seed-sensitive patients, 1986

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