Substance Info: (and synonyms)
Sweet Potato

Background Info:

Common Names: Sweet Potato, Sweetpotato, Yam, Batata, Boniato, Camote, Kumara

The Sweet Potato, belonging to the Morning Glory family (Convolvulaceae) and not related to potatoes, is native to the West Indies and Central America, although early reports of them in Indonesia and Philippines too. It is a vine-like, perennial herb but is cultivated as an annual. It is now grown in more than 100 countries in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate climates. It is one of only seven world food crops with an annual production of more than 100 million metric tons per year, and ranks thirteenth globally in production value among agricultural commodities. It is cultivated primarily for the enlarged edible storage roots, which provide high amounts of starch.

Although variation in storage root skin color and flesh color is abundant, there are two general types: a dry mealy flesh, and a moist, seedy type. In most developing countries, the root has white to cream-colored flesh and a bland, non-sweet flavor. In contrast, the type most used in developed countries has root flesh color of yellow or deep orange, a moist texture, a very distinct flavor, and high sugar content. This type is mistakenly referred to as “Yams” in the US, but the true yam is of the family Dioscorea.

Sweet Potatoes are a staple food of many peoples of the tropics, but in the industrialised world are principally a vegetable or a dessert. They are cooked, canned, frozen, dehydrated, and used as a source of flour, starch, glucose syrup and alcohol. Various products such as candy, pastas, flour, and drinks are produced in local industries. Both starchy roots and vines can be used as animal feed. Nutrients supplied include beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A), vitamin C, iron, potassium, calcium, and fibre. The moist orange-fleshed variety is high in beta carotene.

Sweet Potatoes contain trypsin inhibitors, which may reduce ability to utilize protein if eaten raw. However, trypsin inhibitors do not survive cooking and are of no consequence in cooked roots.

The starch is used commercially for sizing textiles and papers, for the manufacture of adhesives, and in laundries. In the U.S., large quantities of sweet potatoes, either freshly harvested or shredded and dried, are used as feed for livestock.


Adverse Reactions:


[ 1 / 3 ]

Infantile food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) is a severe, cell-mediated gastrointestinal food hypersensitivity typically provoked by cow's milk or soy. This study reports on other foods causing this syndrome: 14 infants with FPIES caused by grains (rice, oat, and barley), vegetables (sweet potato, squash, string beans, peas), or poultry (chicken and turkey) were identified. Symptoms of typical FPIES are delayed (median: 2 hours) and include the onset of vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy/dehydration. Eleven infants (78%) reacted to >1 food protein, including 7 (50%) that reacted to >1 grain. Nine (64%) of all patients with solid food-FPIES also had cow's milk and/or soy-FPIES. Initial presentation was severe in 79% of the patients, prompting sepsis evaluations (57%) and hospitalization (64%) for dehydration or shock. None of the patients developed FPIES to maternally ingested foods while breastfeeding unless the causal food was fed directly to the infant. (Nowak-Wegrzyn 2003 ref.7791 5)

Nowak-Wegrzyn A, Sampson HA, Wood RA, Sicherer SH. Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome caused by solid food proteins. Pediatrics 2003;111(4 Pt 1):829-35

[ 2 / 3 ]

Other species of Ipomoea are involved in allergic pollinosis. (Mondal 1998 ref.7017 3)

Mondal AK, Parui S, Mandal S. Protein profile of the allergenic pollen of Ipomoea fistulosa L.-- comparative study. Ann Agric Environ Med 1998;5:131-4

[ 3 / 3 ]

IgE antibodies to sweet potato and Japanese millet have been measured in children using Pharmacia CAP System. (Yamada 1992 ref.213 19) (and in adults for sweet potato (Konatsu 1992 ref.214 34))

Yamada M, Torii S. Clinical evaluation of Pharmacia CAP System new food and inhalant allergens. [Abstract] Japanese Soc Allergol 1992 (paper d)

Non-Immune reactions

[ 1 ]

Sweet potato may be infected with the mould, Fusarium solani, which produces a toxic substance, furanoterpenoid. (Parasakthy 1993 ref.7013 3)

Parasakthy K, Shanthi S, Devaraj SN. Lung injury by furanoterpenoids isolated from Fusarium solani infected sweet potato, Ipomea batatas. Indian J Exp Biol 1993;31(4):397-8

[ 2 ]

Sweet potatoes contain phytoalexins that can cause lung edema and are hepatotoxic to mice. (Beier 1990 ref.1683 2)
See: Psoralens. (Beier 1990 ref.1683 8)

Beier RC. Natural pesticides and bioactive components in foods. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 1990;113:47-137

Occupational reactions

[ 1 ]

Occupational asthma and rhinitis in a 29-year-old female, caused by Sanyak and Korean ginseng dusts, and confirmed by specific inhalation challenge tests. Symptoms presented within 5 mins of being exposed to the dust. Serum-specific IgE was found to Sanyak, but not to ginseng. Twelve months before her visit, she had been admitted to another hospital and diagnosed with bronchial asthma after the sudden onset of dyspnea following an exposure to airborne ginseng dust. She had also previously experienced itching and swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat after ingesting fresh chestnut, sweet potato, and ginseng. (Lee 2006 ref.13638 7)

Lee JY, Lee YD, Bahn JW, Park HS. A case of occupational asthma and rhinitis caused by Sanyak and Korean ginseng dusts. Allergy 2006 Mar;61(3):392-393

Information supplied from an abridged section of:
Allergy Advisor - Zing Solutions

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Allergy Advisor  - Food Additive and Preservative Allergy and Intolerance Database