April 19, 2021

EXTRA CHEESE: Peanut Allergy Tragedy + Pine Mouth Story

After a brief hiatus, we are back with EXTRA CHEESE! Your extra sprinkle, slice, string, wedge, or dollop of current food and nutrition stories in the news.

This week, Sarah and Becca cover the tragic story of Chantal Giacalone, a model whose life was tragically altered after a severe allergic reaction to peanuts. Then, we hear from a listener who shares their real-life experience with pine mouth syndrome!

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Crosby, G. (2016). Super-Tasters and Non-Tasters: Is it Better to Be Average? Harvard Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2016/05/31/super-tasters-non-tasters-is-it-better-to-be-average/#:~:text=Average%20tasters%20tend%20to%20like,with%20salt%20or%20sriracha%20sauce.&text=Non%2Dtasters%20have%20a%20clear,high%2Dfat%2C%20sweeter%20foods. 

Miller, K. (2021). This Model Was Left With Brain Damage After Eating a Peanut Butter Infused Pretzel - Here’s how that can happen. Health.com. https://apple.news/ArknpBbdeTnmYSKatqd-aZw 

Risso, D. S., Howard, L., VanWaes, C., & Drayna, D. (2015). A potential trigger for pine mouth: a case of a homozygous phenylthiocarbamide taster. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.), 35(12), 1122–1125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2015.09.011 


Hi everyone! I’m Sarah!

& I’m Becca! Welcome back to Extra Cheese!!! 

We took a bit of a break while we wrapped up our Masters coursework, but we’re officially back with your biweekly sprinkle of extra cheese. 

Today’s story is very sad, but it’s important because it also shows how scary severe allergies can be even though people sometimes like to joke about allergies, they are very serious and this story is a bit of a wake up call. 

I’m going to reference the article after I tell the story because the headline spoils the entire thing. So in 2013, 27-year-old Chantal Giacalone was modeling in a fashion show at the Mandalay Bay South Convention Center in Las Vegas and her friend brought her a frozen yogurt with a bite-sized peanut butter infused pretzel on top. I’m guessing that it just looked like a regular pretzel and didn’t have any visible peanut butter flavouring, because despite having a severe peanut allergy, Giacalone took a bite. Almost immediately, she went into anaphylactic shock. Because it was a fashion show and there was a large crowd, there were medics on scene from a company called MedicWest Ambulance and she went to them right away to seek care. However, they were unable to treat her properly and her brain was deprived of oxygen for several minutes leaving her severe brain damage. Giacalone is now a quadriplegic and can only communicate with her eyes and must eat through a feeding tube. 

So scary!!! Becca, you have allergies - how does it feel hearing this story?

  • Serving stories - people saying they had allergies when they clearly did not

On April 9, 2021, Giacalone’s family was awarded $29.5 million dollars by a Las Vegas court because the judge determined that the medical team was negligent in treating her! So apparently they didn’t have any IV epinephrine on site, which is the treatment for severe anaphylactic shock AND the medics were legally required to have that IV epinephrine on site. They had intramuscular epinephrine, like an epipen, which they did administer but because her allergy was so severe and her anaphylaxis had already progressed, it wasn’t enough. 

The Giacalone family says they will use the money to outfit their home to better fit Chantal’s needs—including installing a special shower. The family will also make a foundation for people suffering from similar brain injuries. So sad. I got most of this information was from an article on Health.com called This Model Was Left With Brain Damage After Eating a Peanut Butter Infused Pretzel - Here’s how that can happen by Korin Miller.

Okay, now we have something fun to share!! 

So in our episode about MLMs and the gifting tables, I told you about a rare condition called Pine Mouth, which is a type of dysgeusia “disgoosia” or taste alteration that occurs after someone eats pine nuts - and for 2-4 weeks, the pine nut eater will have an intensely bitter and metallic taste in their mouth whenever they eat something. We had Paolo, an Italian listener and fellow podcaster of the podcast Thoughts on the Table, reach out to us and send us his personal experience with pine mouth syndrome. Let’s check it out!!! 

Thank you so much Paolo! That sounds truly terrible. I did a little more research on what the leading theories are about why pine mouth occurs. Have you ever heard of a supertaster? There is a compound called PTC, which stands for phenylthiocarbamide, and there are essentially two types of people - those that think PTC tastes intensely bitter and unpalatable and those who think it’s slightly bitter and virtually tasteless! There is also a similar compound, propylthiouracil (PROP), that produces the same effect (some taste it as bitter, some barely taste it). This ability to taste PROP and PTC is coded for by a single gene the TAS2R38 gene - and there are two main forms, so if you have what’s called the tasting allele, which is dominant, you’re considered a taster or a supertaster and if you have the non-tasting allele, which is recessive, you’re a non-taster. You also might be a medium taster - which is poorly understood on a genetic level but puts you somewhere in the middle. Approximately 25 percent of Americans are nontasters, 50 percent are medium tasters, and 25 percent are "supertasters. You can test if you’re a supertaster by getting PTC strips - but you also just might find certain foods really bitter - anything in the cabbage family (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), coffee, celery, collard greens - will taste super bitter to you & many supertasters become picky eaters. 

So one theory for pine mouth is that it occurs in individuals that are homozygous for the taster alleles on the TAS2R38 gene - which means they are homozygous dominant with two taster alleles. Because the taster allele is dominant, you might still be a supertaster but might not be more susceptible to pine mouth like someone who is homozygous dominant. And again - this is just a theory based off a single case study. In terms of how long pine mouth lasts, which is about 2-4 weeks, that’s similar to the turnover rate for the taste cells on the tongue! So the resolution of pine mouth might occur just because your taste cells are regenerating. 

That’s it! If you have a weird or interesting food story that you’d love to share on the podcast, you can email us at
dieteticsafterdark@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you!