Red meat could be the source of a newly-discovered allergen, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
“This novel finding from a small group of subjects from Virginia raises the intriguing possibility that allergy to red meat may be an under-recognized factor in heart disease,” said Dr. Coleen McNamara, one of the authors of the study and a professor of medicine in the Cardiovascular Research Center of the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville.
Funded by NIH and done as a collaboration among researchers across Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina, the study found a link between sensitivity to an allergen in red meat to the buildup of plaque in the arteries of the heart.
Researchers selected analyzed blood samples in 118 adults and found that 26 percent of them possessed certain blood characteristics, which indicated a sensitivity to red meat. After conducting imaging tests, the researchers discovered that those with the red-meat sensitivity had plaque buildup in their arteries and were at risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks.
According to Dr. Ahmed Hasan, a program director at NIH’s Bethesda campus, who oversaw the funding for the study, said its sample limited any definitive conclusions and that the results are preliminary.
“By itself, this report will not [have] much weight, because it is a very small sample size, localized geographic location, and the population is not diverse,” Hasan added.
Hasan also explained that this study was a first step in researching the field, adding that researchers knew very little about red-meat allergies prior to the study.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, symptoms of red-meat allergies usually include skin rash, nausea, stuffy nose, headaches, and sneezing. Treatment for the allergy includes avoidance of trigger food as well as numerous medications designed to counteract the symptoms and reactions.
Hasan added that unlike other food allergies, red-meat allergies have a delayed onset of symptoms.