Can a fiber supplement gel treat food allergies?

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Researchers have identified a potential new treatment for food allergies in inulin, a naturally occurring plant fiber commonly used as a supplement, a prebiotic in soda, and a replacement for sweeteners.

In what appears to be a major advancement that offers the promise of relief to food allergy sufferers around the world, the paper in Nature Materials describes inulin gel-based oral immunotherapy’s success in stopping allergic reactions in mice by, in part, targeting bacteria in the gut.

The gel prevented severe allergic reactions during and even after being administered, including reactions to common triggers such as peanuts, egg whites, and milk.

The findings propose that inulin gel addresses the root cause of food allergies, rather than just managing symptoms.

James Moon, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Michigan, led the research. He has studied inulin’s potential to treat disease for years. He says inulin gel-based therapy holds great promise due to its safety profile and potential for large-scale production.

“Inulin, a widely consumed dietary fiber recognized as safe by the FDA, forms the basis of the gel, making it a feasible and translatable option for clinical use,” says Moon, whose lab develops drug delivery technologies combined with pharmaceutics and engineering to identify ways for the body to fight disease.

While further research and clinical trials are needed to test the findings, the study, which emphasizes the role of the small intestine’s microbiota and metabolites in food allergy regulation, opens potentially life-changing new avenues for therapeutic interventions, Moon says. Other, newer treatment options have seen low uptake due to adverse reactions and spotty effectiveness.

As many as 1 in 3 adults and more than 1 in 4 children have food allergies, a life-altering condition that is getting harder to manage as allergens can be hidden in a variety of foods and drinks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Food allergies have become a significant concern globally, especially in developed nations, as accidental exposure to allergens can trigger severe reactions, including death.

The research found that inulin gel, specifically formulated with an allergen, normalized the imbalanced intestinal microbiota and metabolites in allergic mice. This normalization led to the establishment of allergen-specific oral tolerance, effectively suppressing allergic reactions to various food allergens.

“The therapy showed long-lasting protection even after the cessation of treatment, indicating its potential for sustained relief from food allergies,” says Fang Xie, a graduate student who also led the studies.

Inulins are a group of polysaccharides and natural storage carbohydrates in more than 36,000 plant species, including wheat, onion, asparagus, and chicory, which is most often used to manufacture supplements.

The fiber is also the subject of research and clinical trials investigating its role in treating or leading to better understanding of cancerous tumors, gastrointestinal illnesses, diabetes, and other diseases.

Additional coauthors are from the University of Michigan; the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; Dongguk University, Seoul, Republic of Korea; Michigan State University; the University of Washington and WPI Immunology Frontier Research Center; and Osaka University, Japan.

Moon declares financial interests for board membership, as a paid consultant, for research funding, and/or as an equity holder in EVOQ Therapeutics and Saros Therapeutics, and the University of Michigan has a financial interest in EVOQ Therapeutics, Inc. The other authors declare no competing interests.

Source: University of Michigan