"Pine Nut Syndrome" causes couple to lose taste

Published: Feb. 9, 2010 at 3:01 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 22, 2010 at 2:48 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Pine nuts can be a tasty addition to any dish, but one couple says eating them caused them to lose their taste.

Veronica and Billy Doniel love to cook and spend time coming up with new recipes using pine nuts.

"I've been eating them for years,"said Billy Doniel.

However, last week the Doniels  used pine nuts on a salad when their taste buds had a strange reaction.

"It was from the back of my mouth, under my tongue. It was a strong metallic, bitter taste that lasted for about a week," said Billy Doniel.

Veronica also had the metallic taste, but the reaction didn't last as long as it did for her husband.

"It just wouldn't go away," said Billy Doniel.

"Billy loves to cook and here he is for two weeks, can't take one bite of food," said Veronica Doniel.

Dr. Melvin Haysman with Savannah Allergy Associates says the Doniels' reaction to pine nuts isn't unusual. He says hundreds of people who eat pine nuts can suffer from something called pine nut syndrome.

"It's characterized as having either a metal taste in your mouth or a bitter taste in your mouth or on your tongue ," Haysman explained. "It's not common, but if and when you get it, it can last two weeks and goes away without any treatment."

Haysman says it can happen to anyone, but says the reaction isn't permanent.

"It takes away from your total enjoyment of food and the ability to distinguish the things you may not want to eat. But I think it's reassuring that it's not anything serious," said Haysman.

Haysman said what is serious is an allergic reaction to pine nuts.

"If you have something more unusual like the swelling of your tongue or your throat or if you have hives, then you are having a serious allergic reaction and that is different,"said Haysman. "You do not ignore that. You go to the ER or call 911."

Veronica and Billy are glad they finally have some answers and can go back to cooking.

There is a specific difference between the allergy and the syndrome. For more information about food allergies, visit