What is a lupin allergy?
A lupin allergy is an allergy to a bean called lupin (also spelled lupine).
Lupin beans, also called lupins, are the seeds of the lupinus plant, which is a popular garden plant with tall, colourful flower spikes.
Lupin beans are a traditional food in Mediterranean cuisine where they are eaten whole as a snack, added to salads or enjoyed as antipasto.
Lupin beans are also crushed and used to make lupin flour, which can be used in baked goods such as pastries, pies, pancakes and in pasta.
Until fairly recently, lupin has been less commonly consumed in the UK.
However, as lupin flour is naturally gluten-free, it is increasingly being used as a substitute for wheat and other gluten-containing cereals in gluten-free products.
And, with the rise of gluten allergies and intolerances in the UK, people are consuming more lupin because it’s often found in these gluten-free products.
Products containing lupin flour have also become an increasingly popular choice for those on Keto diets.
Lupin beans can also be used to make lupin protein because their protein content is high (up to 44%).
Lupin protein can be used as an alternative to soya protein in vegan or plant-based products such as vegetarian meat substitutes.
Therefore, those on vegan or plant-based diets may also be unknowingly consuming lupin.
Which foods contain lupin/what should you avoid?
Lupin can be found in a wide range of food products from baked goods such as bread, pastries and pies, to pasta or noodles and meat-based products such as burgers and sausages.
Foods that are gluten-free, soy-free or free from genetically modified ingredients may also contain lupin.
If you want to follow a gluten-free or soy-free diet, and you have a lupin allergy, you should be very careful when selecting gluten-free and soy-free foods.
In the UK lupin is one for the 14 major food allergens. This means that food manufacturers that make pre-packaged food are legally required to highlight lupin on the label if a food product contains it.
Lupin might appear on food packaging under the following names: lupin, lupine, lupin seeds, lupin beans or lupin flour.
So, to avoid lupin, you need to become an avid food label reader and check labels on…
- Biscuits and cookies
- Coated and deep-fried vegetables, e.g. onion rings, mushrooms
- Chocolate drinks
- Free-from products, e.g. ice creams
- Gluten-free products, e.g. pasta, sausages
- Pies and pastry cases
- Products containing crumb
- Protein shakes
- Vegetarian meat substitutes
Lupin allergy symptoms/what happens if left untreated?
Allergic reactions to lupin cause similar symptoms seen with other food allergens.
Mild symptoms may include an itchy skin rash (hives or urticaria) on the body, a runny nose, sneezing or watery eyes or a tingling or itchy feeling in the mouth.
More serious symptoms are uncommon but are a possibility for some people. These may include:
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, throat or mouth
- Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
- Breathing difficulties, coughing and wheezing, especially if the person has asthma
- Anaphylaxis (which can be fatal)
Anaphylaxis usually develops suddenly and gets worse very quickly.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, feeling faint and dizzy, swollen tongue and issues with speaking or swallowing, a tight chest, fast heartbeat, clammy skin, confusion and anxiety as well as collapsing and losing consciousness.
If a person experiences anaphylaxis, it is a medical emergency and an ambulance must be called.
What’s the link between peanut and lupin allergy?
People who are allergic to peanuts may also react to lupin. Indeed, people with peanut allergies are most at risk of a lupin allergy.
Lupin is a legume belonging to the same plant family as peanuts and a number of studies have demonstrated a link between lupin allergy and peanut allergy.
One study found that the principal allergen (a protein) that was present in lupin flour was closely similar to one of the allergens found in peanuts.
While a person with a lupin allergy will not necessarily have a peanut allergy and those with a peanut allergy will not necessarily be allergic to lupin, those with severe allergies to either lupin or peanuts should be aware of the potential for a reaction.
Because lupin flour is used in baked goods and pasta, especially gluten-free products, those with peanut allergy, who are also avoiding gluten, need to be careful they are not inadvertently eating products which put them at risk of a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
How to treat/manage lupin allergy
A lupin allergy is best managed by checking all ingredients in pre-packaged foods, asking about the ingredients in dishes when eating out at restaurants and avoiding foods and drinks that contain lupin flour or lupin beans.
If a mild reaction occurs, taking antihistamines may help to reduce symptoms.
If an anaphylactic reaction occurs, an adrenaline auto-injector should be administered and 999 called.