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What does ‘Meat’ mean in my allergy test results?

We receive a lot of questions regarding ‘meat’ in our customers’ test results.

Does this include all meat? What about fish? Or Poultry?

So today we’re clearing up the confusion with an article explaining exactly what we mean by ‘meat’ in your test results.

Scientific Reasoning

Since allergic reactions are almost exclusively caused by the proteins found in an allergen, and different meats share several common factors within their proteins, we test and report them as one single item. Because of these common factors, there is a lot of cross-reactivity across differing meats. For example, someone who reacts severely to chicken may also react to turkey, but to a lesser degree (or vice versa). Hence, it would be of little benefit to our customers if we analyzed these meats separately, rather than all together.

About Allergies

First, it’s important to remember that an allergy is (almost exclusively) a reaction to the proteins in a certain food [1]. These proteins are perceived as a threat by the body, and an allergic reaction occurs. Without the proteins, there would be nothing to react to.


This allergic reaction is known as an IgE-mediated response because the body creates IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies [2] to defend the body against this perceived threat.

An IgE mediated allergic reaction can cause a variety of symptoms. Most commonly;

  • Itchy, red, and watery eyes
  • Swollen mouth, lips, eyes, face, or throat
  • sneezing and a runny or blocked nose
  • Wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath
  • Itchy, red rash (may be raised)
  • Vomiting, stomach pain, or diarrhoea
  • Anaphylaxis

Our Blood Sample Allergy Testing

At Lifelab Testing, we analyse all samples against a panel of commonly known allergens. In an allergic sample, we can observe a reaction against certain proteins from those allergens.

Since chicken, turkey, beef, pork and lamb are all mostly composed of muscle tissue, their composition is all very similar to each other. These meats all share common factors such as epitopes and enzymes, meaning that the reactions are all quite similar.

Epitopes

An epitope is a specific part of an antigen (the ‘invading bad guy’) that interacts with your antibodies [3]. Your antibodies will attach themselves to these epitopes in their attack against an allergen.

Enzymes

Enzymes are biological molecules that act as catalysts. They significantly speed up the rate of pretty much all chemical reactions that take place within a cell. They’re vital to life and are used in various processes in the body, such as digestion and metabolism.

These similarities between proteins cause a lot of ‘cross-reactivity’ between different meats. Cross-reactivity, in this instance, means that an individual may find themselves allergic to two or more of the same things. So, for example, someone might react rather badly to beef and also react to pork, but to a lesser degree (or vice versa).

Because of these similarities between meats, and a heightened chance of cross-reactivity, we decided that it would be best for our Lifelab customers to have their samples tested against meat as a whole, rather than splitting up the analysis into different types of meat. There would be little benefit in splitting up meat into different categories if they are all likely to report similarly. This also leaves room in the test for other food items, allowing for a more diverse range of foods to analyse.

Make sure you get plenty of omega-3 into your body

Why doesn’t ‘Meat’ include fish?

We test for fish allergies separately because of how vastly different the proteins are from each other. In fact, you may notice that we test different types of fish separately. This is due to the difference in proteins between the species.

Final words

Reporting your results in this way makes the proceeding elimination diet simpler to follow and, from our experience, improves adherence to the elimination diet as well. All in all, it makes working towards a healthier, more tailored diet, easier and more straightforward.

References

[1] Nih.gov. (2017). Allergies: Overview. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK447112/ [Accessed 6 Mar. 2020].

[2] Justiz, A.A. and Kamleshun Ramphul (2020). Immunoglobulin. [online] Nih.gov. Available at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513460/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020].

[3] Liang, T.C. (1998). Epitopes. Encyclopedia of Immunology, [online] pp.825–827. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B0122267656002292 [Accessed 23 Mar. 2020].

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