On separate mornings at 14 day intervals groups of six to eight healthy fasting male volunteers drank a 5.5 MJ test meal containing 20% milk, egg or soya protein, or a control protein free preparation. Using a Clq binding test, marked but transient rises in circulating immune complexes were detected 30-120 minutes after the milk and egg meals but not with soya or the control. No such changes were seen when complexes were measured by Raji cell immunoassay. Food antigen specific antibodies were present in the plasma of all subjects but showed no consistent pattern of variation in the postprandial period. In most volunteers a chronic increase in milk (three weeks) or soya (six weeks) consumption produced no changes in circulating immune complexes or antibodies to dietary protein. Although two of 16 milk and six of 52 soya volunteers had substantial rises of one or more classes of plasma food antigen specific antibodies they were matched by a similar number in which a decrease was recorded. These results indicate that the formation of circulating immune complexes may be a physiological response to a large load of dietary antigen but that in most adults a chronic increase of milk or soya consumption does not affect food antibody or immune complex concentrations.
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