Friday, May 3rd, 2013
American-born children have a higher risk of developing allergies to foods or airborne particles like pollen or dust, a new study has found. Though researchers have not identified a definitive reason for the findings, The New York Times reports that the risk is elevated across a number of variables:
After adjusting for age, race, sex, ethnicity and other variables, the scientists found that children born outside the United States were 48 percent less likely to suffer from allergic diseases like asthma, eczema, hay fever and food allergies. The researchers reported their findings in an online article Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.
Children with American-born parents had higher rates of allergies than children with foreign-born parents, and having two foreign-born parents reduced the risk for allergy even more than having one.
Just living in the United States appeared to increase the risk — foreign-born children who lived in the United States for 10 years or more were more than three times as likely to have allergies as those who lived here for two years or less.
Image: Child with hay fever, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, March 14th, 2013
A study conducted by British researchers has found that while breastfeeding can protect a baby from eczema, asthma, and gastrointestinal issues, it cannot protect children from becoming overweight or obese. Previous research had suggested that weight management was on the list of benefits of breastfeeding–not so, says the new study. More from Time.com:
“There’s a lot of other evidence out there to continue to support breast-feeding,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Richard Martin, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Bristol in the U.K. “But in terms of breastfeeding reducing obesity, it’s unlikely to be effective.”
Martin worked with colleagues at Harvard University and McGill University in Montreal to assess 15,000 mothers in Belarus. The location was intentional — when the study began in 1996, breastfeeding was not a popular practice among Belarusian mothers. By separating the moms-to-be into two groups — one that gave birth at hospitals where staff received “Baby-Friendly” training designed to encourage breastfeeding, while the other delivered at hospitals that provided no extra support for the practice — researchers were able to create a “huge contrast” in a setting where breastfeeding rates were historically low. After three months, 43% of babies in the first group were exclusively breastfeeding compared to just 6% in the group that were born in hospitals that had no extra training.
The babies were followed up in 1997 — their first year of life — and again when they reached 6 ½ and 11 ½. The breastfed babies experienced fewer gastrointestinal infections, less eczema and higher IQ (they scored about 7 ½ points higher than their formula-fed friends at age 6 ½). There was no difference in dental cavities, allergies, asthma or rates of being overweight or obese.
The latest report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) marks the first release of data from the 11 ½-year old participants. Mirroring the earlier results, the researchers found no changes in weight and body fat between those who were breast-fed and those who weren’t. About 15% of the children in both groups were overweight, and 5% were considered obese.
Comparing body mass index (BMI) or measures such as waist circumference and skin thickness yielded “absolutely nothing that was statistically significant,” says Martin.
Image: Breastfeeding mother and children, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Fast food, which is often cited as a major factor in the U.S. childhood obesity epidemic, is now being associated with asthma and eczema, two allergy-based illnesses. More on the study, which was published in the medical journal Thorax, from Yahoo! News:
The researchers found that, out of the 15 food types in the questionnaire, only fast food showed an association with asthma and eczema in both age groups regardless of gender and socio-economic status. Three or more servings a week was linked to a 39 percent increase in severe asthma among teens and a 27 percent increased risk among younger children.
“A consistent pattern for the adolescent group was found for the relationship between symptoms and fast foods,” the researchers wrote in the study. “As adolescents are generally known to be high consumers of fast food, these results that show a significant increased risk of developing each or all three conditions may be a genuine finding.”
Though both eczema and asthma can be triggered by food allergies—and typical fast-food meals are filled with common allergens like gluten, dairy, egg, and soy—Williams told Yahoo! Shine that allergies probably aren’t the main issue here.
“We did not look for gluten, although bread and pasta both have gluten (however gluten free pasta and bread are now widely available so when someone says yes to eating bread 3x per week it may well be that they ate gluten free as this practice is growing in some countries). So we cannot tease this out,” he wrote in an email. “There is no doubt that food allergy plays an important role in some people with severe asthma and eczema, but those people tend to recognize it and avoid those foods.”
“I doubt if our observation of an association between severe allergies and fast foods is mediated much by increased food allergens,” he added.
A 2011 study published in Nutrition Research and Practice suggested that additives in processed foods could also trigger an allergic reaction in some kids, but Williams and his team say that fat intake, not food allergies or additives, is probably the main culprit.
Image: French fries, via Shutterstock
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Friday, June 17th, 2011
A study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine is reporting that the introduction of cow’s milk, hen’s egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and gluten to children before the age of six months is not associated with increased incidence of eczema or wheezing in either infancy or later childhood.
The study, researched in the Netherlands, followed 7,000 children from infancy to age 4 to see whether introducing allergenic foods correlated with heightened rates of eczema and wheezing. Those and other allergenic diseases are common in childhood, but the study found no increase in their occurrence among children who were presented with milk, eggs, soy, or the other allergens before age 6 months. The findings held true even after factoring in parental history of eczema and wheezing.
This goes against the medical conventional wisdom, which generally advises parents to delay solid foods until age 6 months to prevent food allergies and more general allergic conditions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, though, has recommendations more in line with the Dutch study:
Many pediatricians recommend against giving eggs and fish in the first year of life because of allergic reactions, but there is no evidence that introducing these nutrient-dense foods after 4 to 6 months of age determines whether your baby will be allergic to them. Give your baby one new food at a time, and wait at least 2 to 3 days before starting another. After each new food, watch for any allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting. If any of these occur, stop using the new food and consult with your child’s doctor.
What do you think about introducing solid foods to infants? Did you delay, or do you plan to?
(image via: http://www.123rf.com/)
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