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Allergen-independent reduction of the allergy symptom burden: targeted immunonutrition

Published: March 6, 2022

Micronutritional deficiencies can promote inflammation and increase the susceptibility of the immune system particularly to allergenic compounds. Iron deficiency especially is a danger signal to immune cells and leads to a more pronounced, exaggerated immune response, which is a common characteristic of atopic individuals. For the first time, Roth-Walter and colleagues demonstrated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial that targeted delivery of micronutrients, especially of iron, to immune cells can improve their iron status and significantly reduce the symptom burden in allergic patients. The study by Bartosik, et al was recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

The aim of the study conducted by researchers at the interuniversity Messerli Research Institute Vienna in collaboration with the Department of Ear, Nose and Throat Diseases at Medical University Vienna was to tackle the vicious cycle in which a hyperactive immune system sets the body on alert and inhibits adequate iron absorption. To compensate for these micronutritional deficiencies, the scientific team developed a lozenge that was tested for the first time in a placebo-controlled manner. Since the lozenge only contains a very small amount of iron, less than one milligram, it is not an iron supplement, but classified as a food for special medical purposes, in which the micronutrients are in a suitable form to be carried by the whey protein beta-lactoglobulin and to the immune cells.

According to the study results, supplementation with the lozenge twice daily for 6 months significantly improved the allergic symptom burden as well as the iron status of circulating monocytes and red blood cell parameters. In an allergen-independent manner, the lozenge reduced the Combined Symptom Medication Score, a measure for symptom severity and medication use, during the peak birch pollen and grass pollen season by 45 and 40%, respectively, in pollen-allergic women.   

This study offers a potential new approach in the management of allergic patients in which targeted micronutrition supplementation enables reduction of the underlying cause of the immune hyperactivity to allergenic compounds rather than targeting the specific allergy itself. Further studies of this novel approach are warranted.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.

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