Acerola is a tropical fruit sold as an OTC health and wellness product for its high vitamin C and antioxidant content. However, it also appears to contain allergenic compounds comparable to those found in some types of pollen and nuts. Juice and some food supplements made with this fruit may also contain these compounds.
The acerola or Barbados cherry is a tropical fruit native to South America and also grown in the French West Indies and Réunion. It is not exported due to its short shelf life and only consumed as a fresh fruit in countries where it is produced. Acerola is mainly marketed for its high vitamin C content (20 to 30 times higher than oranges) and antioxidant levels. In our part of the world, it is consumed as juice or vitamin C-rich food supplements (in powder or tablet form). OTC health and wellness suppliers recommend it for its established vitamin C-related benefits (reducing tiredness, strengthening natural defenses, etc.).
In May 2022, a study concerning acerola was published in the French Journal of Allergology. The team led by Pascal Poncet, an Institut Pasteur scientist specializing in allergies, collaborated with clinical allergists at Armand Trousseau Hospital, part of the AP-HP Paris Public Hospital Network, and biologists. They demonstrated that fresh fruit (imported from Réunion), commercially supplied juice, and an acerola powder sold over the counter by health and wellness suppliers contain a molecule from the lipid transfer protein (LTP) family. LTPs are powerful allergens contained in various foods including peanuts, nuts, certain types of fruit including peaches and apples, and some types of pollen including plane and olive tree pollen. LTPs found in these various plant species are very similar. This means that acerola ingestion may cause severe allergic symptoms in individuals who are allergic to LTPs. Acerola tablets sold for their high vitamin C content do not appear to contain allergenic LTPs due to manufacturing processes. However, caution is required with regard to juices and powder!
L’acérola, un fruit exotique riche en vitamine C contient une LTP allergénique, Revue Française d'Allergologie, May 13, 2022
S.Pauliat Desbordesa, P.Challiera, T.Trividicb, M.Choëlc, Y.Chantrand, M.A.Selvad, C.Broussarde, H.Sénéchalb, P.Poncetbf
a - Armand-Trousseau children’s hospital, AP–HP, Department of Nutrition and Gastroenterology, Paris, France
b - Armand-Trousseau children’s hospital, AP–HP, Allergy & Environment Research Team, Paris, France
c - University of Lille, CNRS, UMR 8516, LASIRE, Lille, France
d - Armand-Trousseau children’s hospital, AP–HP, Department of Immunology, Paris, France
e - 3P5 PROTEOM'IC platform, Institut Cochin, INSERM U1016, CNRS UMR8104, Université Paris Cité, Paris, France
f - Institut Pasteur, Department of Immunology, Paris, France