Have you heard of lupin? Most Americans don’t know a lot about it. That’s likely to change. This little legume is increasingly available to eat or being added to various foods.
What is lupin?
Lupin (or lupine) beans are legumes, putting them in the same plant family as the peanut. Lupin beans are high in antioxidants, dietary fiber and protein and low in starch. Like all legumes, they are gluten-free.
What is lupin food allergy?
You may be asking, “Can you be allergic to lupin?” The answer is, yes! Although not one of the “Top 9” allergens, lupin is making headlines in the food allergy world. For most people, eating products containing lupin is completely safe. However, for some, lupin can trigger an allergic reaction. The odds of having a reaction are higher if you already have a peanut allergy. This is due to cross-reactivity between lupin and peanut.
Lupin allergy is not more severe than other types of food allergies. Like all allergic reactions, symptoms vary. Those who are allergic to lupin have reported reactions ranging from hives and swelling of the lips and face to more severe symptoms involving gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and respiratory distress.
How common is lupin allergy?
There is no exact data on lupin allergy prevalence. Over the past 20 years, lupin has become increasingly used in European, Australian and U.S. foods. Estimates suggest that about 1% of people who have eaten lupin or lupin-containing products have had an allergic reaction. For people with peanut allergies, this number is much higher. Studies have shown that between 5-28% of people with peanut allergy show clinical symptoms of lupin allergy as well.
Which foods contain lupin?
Lupin beans (lupini beans in Italian markets) can be eaten like any other bean or legume. You can eat them plain, roasted, in a salad or a soup. Lupin beans are commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine. They are sometimes ground into flour and blended into regular wheat flour. Lupin is frequently found in:
- baked goods
- beverages (such as beer)
- meat-based products like sausage and hamburgers.
Lupin appears most often as a substitute for gluten or soy products as well as replacement for genetically modified ingredients and animal proteins (primarily dairy and egg). Those allergic to lupin or unsure should be careful of unlabeled, over-the-counter baked goods like pastries sold at a bakery, bread rolls served at a restaurant, or beer at a local pub.
Do manufacturers label for lupin?
Due to the frequent use of lupin in European packaged goods, coupled with reports of allergic reactions, manufacturers in the European Union are required to put lupin on food labels. This requirement is voluntary in places like the United States, Canada, Australia, and other parts of the world where you may find lupin listed among other ingredients without special emphasis. U.S. laws and regulations only require labeling to highlight the Top 9 allergens (peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, dairy, egg and sesame).
Chances are, you will see lupin or foods that contain lupin more frequently. If you are concerned you may be allergic to lupin, speak with a board-certified allergist to discuss the level of risk, get tested, and develop prevention strategies. Avoiding the allergen is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction.
How do you read a food label for lupin?
While lupin is popular in Europe, its presence is increasing in the United States and elsewhere. As the demand for gluten-free and other free-from goods grows, so may the use of lupin. If you have a lupin allergy or lupin flour allergy, it is important to understand the different names and products it is used in so you can avoid ingestion. Other names for lupin are:
- Lupin bean/flour
- Lupine bean/flour
- Lupin Seed
Do chickpeas contain lupin?
Chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are, like lupin, in the legume family. Chickpeas themselves do not contain lupin as they are just two separate legumes. However, products containing chickpeas could also contain lupin. So for people allergic to certain legumes, it is crucial to read food labels. Call the manufacturer to ask if the label is not clear.
Are there side effects from eating lupin?
Legumes like lupin are somewhat notorious for causing gas and bloating. This is because they contain a type of carbohydrate the human body lacks the enzyme to break down. Canned beans tend to have less of this carbohydrate due to how they’re cooked. Soaking beans overnight, rinsing, and cooking in fresh water may help.
Are there health benefits to eating lupin?
Lupin, like other legumes, is a good source of protein. Studies have found that people who follow vegetarian diets rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds have lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.
Legumes are low in fat and contain no cholesterol. They are high in fiber, protein, carbohydrate, B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorus. Despite the benefits of lupin, the risks may outweigh the benefits for those with a severe lupin allergy.
Reviewed by William E. Berger, MD, FACAAI, board-certified allergist and immunologist who serves as Medical Director with Allergy & Asthma Network. He is a Distinguished Fellow and Past President (2002-03) of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).