Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Peanut policy 'wrong'

Hmmmm.... The House of Lords is well-known for independent thinking so the conclusions of their expert committees deserve much respect. It seems to me however that societies who expose children to peanut products from an early age might simply be killing off the susceptible ones -- with the outcome misattributed to cot death etc. Peanuts are absolutely pervasive in Southeast Asian cuisine (Thai, Vietnamese etc.) so I supect that any peanut allergies there must have been bred out of the population (by killing off susceptible infants) long ago

PARENTS who shield their children from peanut products may be fuelling the peanut allergy epidemic. Repeated exposure of a child's immune system to peanut allergen at an early age might result in tolerance and prevent the development of a dangerous allergy, research suggests.

Peanut allergy rose 117 per cent between 2001 and 2005 in Britain, despite guidelines advising pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as children up to age two, to avoid nuts. The dramatic rise is echoed in Australia, with one in 200 infants having a peanut allergy.

Commenting on the research, provided to the influential British House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, Australian experts are divided about whether avoidance or consumption reduces the risk of an allergy. The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy said although avoiding all nuts and shellfish may be recommended until age two in most children, and until age four in children with a family history of allergy or those born premature, there is no evidence to support this. It said avoiding certain foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding has not been shown to cut the risk of allergic disease.

President of Anaphylaxis Australia Maria Said said many mothers without a history of allergy were unnecessarily avoiding nut products because they had been scared by stories of children dying from severe reactions....

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, who chaired the House of Lords committee's investigation, said: "Academics and clinicians have told us that a growing body of evidence has suggested this guidance may not only be failing to prevent peanut allergy, but might possibly even be counterproductive." The committee supported a Learning About Peanut Allergy study, which is investigating a theory that repeatedly exposing a child's immune system to peanut at an early age teaches their body to tolerate peanut proteins.

In parts of Africa, where peanuts are made into soup for weaning babies, and Israel, where they are incorporated into a babies' rusk, allergy levels are low or non-existent. However, University of Sydney clinical immunologist Rob Loblay said "there are big dangers in extrapolating from one community to another".


Wealth, education and health: More politically correct idiocy

All that the findings below prove is that people who seek out education tend to be healthier. It does NOT prove that education makes you healthier. It's just the old, old story of middle class people being healthier generally.

And that being richer buys you better health care is an iron law that nobody has ever succeeded in repealing, despite many attempts

The more educated you are, the less likely you are to become chronically ill or disabled, but the amount of money you make plays a bigger role in whether your illness progresses, a new study shows. Based on the findings, the most effective single policy strategy for improving health might be to make higher education more accessible, Dr. Pamela Herd of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

Instead of focusing exclusively on getting people to lose weight and exercise, she explains, "you can do something earlier in the causal chain to improve people's health outcomes," noting that the more educated people are, the more likely they are to exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and eat a healthy diet.

Most studies of socioeconomic status and health have looked at status, and health, as single dimensions, Herd and her colleagues note. To get a better sense of how socioeconomic status affects health, the researchers looked at the separate effects of educational attainment and income in 8,287 men and women who were followed from 1986 to 2000-2001. Rather than evaluate health as a "unitary construct," they looked at the onset of functional limitations and chronic illness, the progression of both, and mortality.

When the researchers adjusted for income, they found that level of education independently determined a person's likelihood of becoming ill or disabled. People who hadn't finished high school were twice as likely as college graduates to develop functional limitations, while high school graduates who hadn't finished college were at 61 percent greater risk of becoming disabled than their college-educated peers. There was a similar relationship between the risk of becoming chronically ill and educational attainment.

"It is clearly not just the economic resources that come from higher educational attainment that drive the postponement of ill health, in some cases until very late in life," Herd and her colleagues write the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

But level of education didn't play a role in whether people's health would further decline, or in mortality. Instead, the researchers found, income predicted whether people would become chronically ill, whether their illness would progress, and whether they would die during the course of the study. For example, ill or disabled people with incomes below $10,000 a year were nearly three times as likely as those who made $30,000 or more annually to have their health condition worsen.

The findings are "really about the way that poverty has negative ramifications for health," Herd said, noting that poor people may live in worse housing, have a more difficult time obtaining healthy foods, and have a tougher time getting health care. And poverty can increase stress levels, she adds, which in itself can worsen health



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.


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