SUNFLOWER SEED ALLERGY
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. Sunflower oil is highly processed, but those who are very sensitive to lipid transfer proteins may still have allergic symptoms to sunflower oil.
There are 3 other defined allergens and they are all linked to airway allergies for sunflowers. You can read more on the sunflower pollen page
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.
Newer studies have shown that sunflower seeds contain defensin proteins
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.
Sunflowers seeds are a low FODMAP food. FODMAP
stands for F
olyols. Foods high in FODMAPs can cause symptoms of food intolerance, affecting the gastro intestinal system and this can be mistaken for a true IgE food allergy.
Sunflower seeds are low in salicylates. Salicylates
have the potential to cause gastrointestinal food intolerance symptoms in people who are sensitive to salicylates.
Sunflower seeds contain a moderate amount of lectins
, another cause of food intolerance. Cooking foods with lectins makes them more digestible and can reduce the symptoms of food intolerance.
You can read more about Food Intolerances
on the dedicated Food Intolerance Page.
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.
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.
Other foods containing defensin proteins include celery, peanuts and chestnuts.
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.
Please note these food and pollen lists are not completely exhuastive, you can find the most up to date information on the Cross Reactivity Tool.
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
FODMAPedia - Sunflower Seeds
ATP Science - Salicylate Foods
Articles and Journals
The Role of Defensins as Pollen and Food Allergens, 2023
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) Seed Allergy: A Case Series, 2023
The rising status of edible seeds in lifestyle related diseases: A review, 2022
Anaphylaxis to Sunflower Seed with Tolerance to Other Nuts. The Role of Lipophilic Allergens, 2022
Open Sesame: shedding light on an emerging global allergen, 2022
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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