peanutsA study on mice has found that roasted peanuts are more likely to trigger an allergic reaction than raw peanuts.

Scientists say chemical changes caused by dry roasting processes may prime the body's immune system - sparking future allergic reactions.However, lead author Prof Quentin Sattenteau says much more work is needed before humans should consider swapping roasted nuts for raw ones.

"This is the first time, to our knowledge, that a potential trigger for peanut allergy has been directly shown," he said. "We know that children in families with other allergies are more likely to develop peanut allergy.

"However our research is at an early stage and we think that it would be premature to avoid roasted peanuts and their products until further work has been carried out to confirm this result."

Animals given the dry roasted samples had a much stronger immune response - the body's way of fighting things that appear foreign to it - than mice given the raw versions. In humans, immune responses vary. Some can be mild, causing rashes for example, but others can be extremely dangerous, leading to swelling of the mouth and breathing difficulties.

Scientists say it is likely to be the high temperatures used to roast nuts that are responsible for the chemical changes that, in turn, prompt the allergic reactions. The findings may also explain the lower allergy rates in East Asian populations where boiled, raw or fried nuts are a more common part of the diet than roasted ones.

But they warn that much more work is needed before doctors make any specific dietary recommendations. According to NHS Choices, nut allergies, including peanuts, are relatively common in both school-aged children and adults. People with peanut allergies are advised to avoid them and many carry auto-injector pens to reduce the severity of any reactions that do occur.