Posted on 12 June 2008 by

Deadly Tomatoes

By Kira Hamman

A few hundred years ago, people thought that tomatoes were poisonous.

Western people, that is, not the South Americans who had been eating them for several thousand years at that point.

Because tomatoes (along with potatoes, eggplant, and peppers, to name a few) belong to the Solanaceae family, which also includes plants like deadly nightshade, mandrake, and tobacco, it seems they suffered from guilt by association. And it’s true that tomato plants do bear a striking resemblance to some of those poisonous ones, so maybe people were wise to be cautious.

Nonetheless, at some point in the 18th century, Westerners caught on to the fact that tomatoes are not only non-poisonous but also delicious, and they started growing and eating them in droves.

But the vilification did not end there, I’m afraid, because just last week I noticed a book in my local bookstore which implicated poor, defenseless tomatoes in a host of health problems ranging from arthritis to irritable bowel syndrome. Naturally I didn’t believe a word of it, but as soon as I got home I hurried to the computer to find scientific backup for my disbelief.

Well, guess what. It turns out that some people are allergic to tomatoes! How horrifying! Their allergic reactions can range from minor symptoms like skin rash to fairly major ones like something called laryngeal angioedema, which I think means your throat feels tight. Those poor people! How awful for them!

Luckily, there aren’t many people who suffer this way — tomato allergies are extremely rare. Furthermore, tomatoes have been shown to reduce blood pressure, help prevent certain cancers, and improve vision. They provide a large amount of vitamins A and C and smaller amounts of many other vitamins, and they are a great source of those compounds-of-the-hour, antioxidants.

So, as long as they don’t make your mouth itch, eat up! Tomatoes are great for you. But it might be best not to scoff at anyone who tells you they’re allergic — just nod sympathetically and offer to eat theirs.

4 Responses to “Deadly Tomatoes”

  1. deb Says:

    Considering all the recent media attention, I sort of cringed at this post title. However, food allergies are the real deal. I am just glad I am immune.

  2. cindee Says:

    That is one big tomato!!!

  3. Barrie Says:

    I am one of those people who found out they were allergic to tomatoes and also deathly allergic to romaine lettuce. I found this out when a Wendy’s salad put me in the ER. This allergy appeared when I was an adult even though I ate something that had tomatoes in it daily my entire life(my favorite foods were italian and mexican!). I’m one of those people who can’t eat raw or processed. I’ve found that a lot of people just don’t understand that you can be allergic to a fruit and lettuce and don’t try to accommodate you and/or are insulted if you do not eat the food they prepared even after being informed of the allergy.

    So please, even with all the media out there saying that you “might not really be allergic to a food” please listen to your friends, family, coworkers etc and take this seriously.

    And to all you people out there who are “immune” – you’re so lucky! But beware, you can be able to eat something you love one day and have a deadly reaction the next if you’re body can no longer tolerate the exposure to the food you loved.

  4. marilyn mccorkell Says:

    I too am allergic to tomatoes but only raw ones. I had eaten and loved tomatoes all my life until one time I was eating Bruschetta and my throat and face began to swell. I too landed in the emergency room. Later on a plane trip I found out that even eating a sandwich on which tomatoes had been but were removed when I said I was allergic could cause the symptoms. So please be sensitive to others allergies.

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