Thursday, March 7th, 2013
Food allergies in children seem to be getting more common, with foods like eggs and peanut butter as top culprits. New recommendations from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology urge parents to introduce highly allergenic foods, including fish, eggs, and nuts, to babies as young as ages 4 and 6 months, saying that early exposure may lower the risk of the allergy. More from the Wall Street Journal:
The recommendations are a U-turn from 2000, when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines that children should put off having milk until age 1, eggs until 2 and peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts and fish until 3. In 2008, the AAP revised its guidelines, citing little evidence that such delays prevent the development of food allergies, but it didn’t say when and how to introduce such foods.
Food allergies affect an estimated 5% of children under the age of 5 in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The prevalence of a food allergy for children under 18 increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007.
“There’s been more studies that find that if you introduce them early it may actually prevent food allergy,” said David Fleischer, co-author of the article and a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver. “We need to get the message out now to pediatricians, primary-care physicians and specialists that these allergenic foods can be introduced early.”
Dr. Fleischer said more study results are needed to conclusively determine whether early introduction will in fact lead to lower food-allergy rates and whether they should be recommended as a practice.
Image: Peanuts, via Shutterstock
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Friday, February 1st, 2013
An inexpensive course of antibiotics, when given in conjunction with long-used nutritional treatments, could save tens of thousands of children’s lives each year, two new studies have concluded. More from The New York Times:
The studies, in Malawi, led by scientists from Washington University in St. Louis, reveal that severe malnutrition often involves more than a lack of food, and that feeding alone may not cure it.
The antibiotic study found that a week of the medicine raised survival and recovery rates when given at the start of a longer course of a tasty “therapeutic food” made from peanut butter fortified with milk powder, oil, sugar and micronutrients. Malnourished children are prone to infections, and the drugs — either amoxicillin or cefdinir — were so helpful that researchers said medical practice should change immediately to include an antibiotic in the routine treatment of severe malnutrition.
“This is ready for prime time,” said Dr. Indi Trehan, an author of the study. The study was published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine. The senior author is Dr. Mark J. Manary, an expert on malnutrition and one of the pioneers in using the fortified peanut butter, which researchers say has saved countless lives.
Because of the results, the World Health Organization expects to recommend broader use of antibiotics in guidelines on treating malnutrition that are to be issued next month, said Zita Weise Prinzo, a technical officer in the group’s nutrition department. A week’s worth of drugs costs only a few dollars, so governments and donors are likely to accept the idea, researchers say.
Image: Empty hands, 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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Thursday, October 25th, 2012
A spicy flavor of the popular snack food Cheetos called “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos,” is being banned by school districts in three states because, officials say, the snack is too high in calories and fat, and it is too spicy for children to safely eat. From The New York Times:
The chips in question, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, are scarlet-red, exceedingly spicy and enormously popular. Multiple fan pages with thousands of followers have sprung up on Facebook, and a rap video about hot Cheetos – created by children – has nearly 3.5 million views on YouTube.
But some school districts say the chips are too high in calories, salt and fat, and too spicy for most children. Teachers and parents have complained that the artificial coloring has children leaving behind bright red fingerprints in their classrooms and on their clothing. And emergency room doctors say they have seen patients complaining of stomach pain after eating hot Cheetos, and they warn that eating the chips in excess – because of the bright food dye they contain – may cause discolored stool that can lead to unnecessary hospital visits.
In Pasadena, Calif., a principal at an elementary school told the Chicago Tribune, which first reported the story, that the chips would be confiscated from any student who brings them to school. In New Mexico, students at the Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School in Albuquerque were sent home with a letter telling parents not to let their children bring Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to school. The letter said that the snack lacks nutritional value and creates a mess for janitors, and that students eat it instead of a healthy lunch. The letter also noted that the chips are shared among students, spreading germs.
Frito-Lay, the company that makes Cheetos, says it does not market the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos brand specifically to small children, nor does it sell the snacks directly to schools.
Image: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, via fritolay.com
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Thursday, August 23rd, 2012
Hospitalizations for eating disorders for children under age 12 increased nearly 120 percent between 1999 and 2006, a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has found. Ongoing emphasis on the childhood obesity epidemic may be an unintended cause of the problem, as CNN.com reports:
Children will come in to her office already showing signs of malnutrition, dietician Page Love says. They often have low energy levels and low iron counts and are reporting hair loss because of their extreme weight loss….
Dina Zeckhausen is a psychologist and founder of the Eating Disorder Information Network. She sees kids in third and fourth grade who are already worried about being fat.
“There is so much emphasis on obesity,” Zeckhausen said, “that there’s a danger that we are going to produce a lot of anxieties in kids around weight.”
Zeckhausen says that starting overweight kids on diets can trigger an obsession with food that could lead to an eating disorder. She recommends putting overweight children in a sport or becoming more active as a family and providing healthier food options.
Children at risk of an eating disorder share similar personality traits: high anxiety, perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, according to Zeckhausen. They are also often subject to external pressures such as school bullying, abuse or a divorce. Restricting food intake is a way for a child to feel in control of their life.
“The eating disorder is the voice,” said Love. “The eating disorder is a way to communicate (and say) ‘I’m struggling. I’m hurt. I need help.’ “
Image: Girl refusing fruit, via Shutterstock
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