Japanese apricot (Prunus mume; ume) is a traditional food in Japan that has been shown to have various beneficial health effects. There is some evidence to suggest that ume is also effective against allergic disease. Here, we conducted a cross-sectional epidemiological pilot study to examine the association between ume intake frequency and allergic symptoms including rhinitis in 563 adults (288 men and 275 women) who resided in Wakayama, Japan. After adjusting for age, present illness and medication, women with high ume intake had significantly lower odds ratio (OR) for the presence of symptoms of allergy [OR: 0.49 with 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.25–0.97]. Therefore, we investigated the anti-allergic effect of ume on passive cutaneous anaphylaxis (PCA) reaction in immunoglobulin E (IgE)-sensitized mice. The animal study demonstrated that oral administration of ume extract attenuated the PCA reaction and mast cell degranulation. Furthermore, RBL-2H3 mast cells were used to identify anti-allergic ume compounds. The following ume compounds inhibited IgE-mediated mast cell degranulation: vanillin, syringic acid, protocatechuic aldehyde, lyoniresinol and p-coumaric acid. These results suggested that ume has the potential to inhibit mast cell degranulation and may be associated with reduced risk of allergic symptoms in women.
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