by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Allergies

Feb 26 2015

Fingers crossed: good news about preventing peanut allergies

The New England Journal of Medicine has a new study that suggests the need to rethink whether to feed peanuts to babies.

As the Wall Street Journal explains, peanut allergies can be life-threatening and they are increasing among the population.

Dr. Gideon Lack and his colleagues randomly assigned infants to be fed peanuts (really, peanut butter) until they were five years old.  The children fed peanuts had far fewer peanut allergies than those who were not exposed to peanuts.

Of the more than 500 infants who showed no signs of peanut allergies at the start of the trial, the prevalence of peanut allergies at age 5 was 13.7% in the avoidance group and only 1.9% in the consumption group (see the journal’s video for an easy explanation).

A result like this is extremely unlikely to have occurred by chance.

Dr. Lack got the idea for the study when he noticed that peanut allergies were rare in Israel.  Israeli infants are routinely offered foods made with peanuts, whereas British and American parents have been told not to feed peanuts to young children.

The authors conclude:

Our findings showed that early, sustained consumption of peanut products was associated with a substantial and significant decrease in the development of peanut allergy in high-risk infants. Conversely, peanut avoidance was associated with a greater frequency of clinical peanut allergy than was peanut consumption, which raises questions about the usefulness of deliberate avoidance of peanuts as a strategy to prevent allergy.

The implications are clear: expose young children to peanut butter (the accompanying editorial explains how to do this safely).  And to prevent choking, don’t give them peanuts until they can chew.

Other newspaper articles on this topic:

 

 

Mar 10 2011

The industry’s view on food allergies

Food allergies pose labeling and other problems for food manufacturers.  FoodQualityNews.com summarizes recent stories on what’s happening with food allergies, from the perspective of its European food industry clients.

Enzyme treatment may remove peanut allergens, suggests study: An enzymatic treatment process may effectively reduce allergens in roasted peanuts by up to 100 per cent, according to new research.

FoodNavigator conference to address food allergy challenges: Incidence of food allergies and intolerances is on the rise in Europe, and there are big gains to be made by companies who provide products that are safe and enjoyable for sufferers. Some challenges remain, however, such as appropriate labelling, and future threshold levels. 

The balancing act of allergen labelling: The food industry has a responsibility to label allergenic ingredients as big and bold as they can – but also not to over-egg the slimmest of slim possibilities that a trace amount of an allergen may have slipped into a product.
Germany develops rapid detection systems for food allergens

German researchers are aiming to develop rapid detection systems to identify allergenic substances in foodstuffs, according to a workshop on analytical methods for allergen detection staged in Berlin this week. 

UK leads free-from launches in major European markets: Mintel data: People with food allergies and intolerances in the UK have the more new products to meet their dietary needs than consumers in other major European markets, indicates data from Mintel, but there has been a general increase in launches across the EU in the last six years.

Allergy prediction tool could revolutionise allergen labelling: As allergy diagnoses among children continue to rise, a new online calculator is said to provide fast, cheap and highly accurate predictions, with potential implications for better-targeted on-pack allergen labelling.

Allergies, as I have discussed in previous posts, are difficult to diagnose and it’s hard to avoid something you are allergic to if you can’t figure out what it is.  Rates of food allergies seem to be increasing, for reasons not well understood.  The leading hypothesis is cleaner environments, but research can’t confirm that cause.  This is one area where the trite phrase, more research needed, really means something.

May 26 2010

Peanut allergies on the increase

A survey report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology says that peanut allergies have tripled in the last decade.  Why?  The authors don’t really know although they speculate that children aren’t exposed to as much dirt as they used to be.

Are we really that much cleaner than we were 10 years ago?  I doubt it.  But I would very much like to know why this is happening.

May 30 2009

My latest San Francisco Chronicle column: Gluten Intolerance

My once-every-three-weeks column for the San Francisco Chronicle is set up as a Q and A.  I don’t get many questions through the column, but the few that do come in are often quite challenging.  This one is from a school chef wondering how to deal with kids who might be gluten intolerant – and whether gluten intolerance is becoming more common.  Interesting questions!  Here’s what I had to say about them.  If you have questions about food and nutrition that you’d like me to answer, send them to food@sfchronicle.com (put Marion Nestle in the subject line).

Nov 18 2008

Food allergies: OK to eat peanuts if pregnant?

A new study reports that children of women who ate peanuts during pregnancy had lower rates of peanut allergies than women who were told not to eat peanuts.  This could be good news.  But I’m baffled by food allergies.  Why are rates rising?  Why don’t we know more about them?  Why isn’t there more research?  I’m getting lots of questions about them lately.  Good places to start: The National Library of Medicine explains the research.  Organizations like the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and the Food Allergy Initiative provide basic information.  And for personal experience, Allergic Girl has plenty to say on her blog.

Oct 23 2008

Food allergies more common, says CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a new report out on food allergies.  As everyone suspects, these have become more common in the last 10 years, especially among kids with asthma.  But the increase is really quite small and much smaller than I suspected.  The one big change is in the rate of hospitalizations; these have more than doubled.  Why? What’s really depressing is that nobody really knows.  I have argued for years that we need more research on food allergies.  With a food supply as complicated as ours, having one is no joke.

Jan 15 2008

Food allergies

This week’s “Ask Marion” question on Eating Liberally is about food allergies, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone–too little known, and too much at stake.  Take a look.