Saturday, December 13, 2008

Confusion as British watchdog U-turns and says you CAN eat nuts during pregnancy

Once again the official wisdom goes into reverse. It did more harm than good. What a surprise! (NOT)

Advice to parents worried about children developing a peanut allergy is to be withdrawn by food safety chiefs. Women have been advised to avoid eating peanuts during pregnancy and while breast-feeding if they or the father had a family history of allergic conditions. Parents were also recommended not to give peanuts to children until they are at least three years old to avoid sensitisation. The advice has been in place since 1998 and has been partly blamed for the rise of 'nut hysteria', with parents and children becoming increasingly anxious about exposure to peanuts.

But the Food Safety Agency says it is no longer backing the advice because 'current evidence' does not support it. It is recommending to government ministers that the advice is dropped. However, it will not be replaced by any guidance on what parents should do to reduce the risk of their children developing a peanut allergy. Instead the FSA is saying those at higher risk should not change their diets while emphasising that this is not a green light for peanuts to be included in meals for young children and pregnant women.

The change comes amid a growing change of view among scientists, medics and policy-makers, who believe avoiding peanuts in early life may be making the problem worse. In the past 20 years the number of British children.with a peanut allergy has nearly doubled, with one in 55 being diagnosed with it.

A spokesman for the FSA said the existing advice had been reviewed by the independent Committee on Toxicity. She said: 'Previously, there were concerns that children could develop a peanut allergy as a result of their mother eating peanuts during pregnancy or while breast-feeding. 'When COT last reviewed this subject there was some evidence to support this concern and this was the basis of their precautionary advice issued in 1998. 'The new review by the COT does not suggest this current advice is harmful. 'However, the FSA board has agreed that the balance of evidence now available does not support continuing to follow this current advice.'

But she said this did not mean 'higher-risk' parents should start feeding their children peanuts. 'Where there is a family history of allergy, parents might want to discuss their individual case with their GP or health professional if they are concerned,' she added.

An influential House of Lords committee last year recommended that pregnant women no longer be warned to avoid peanuts, saying there is scant evidence it helps their children avoid nut allergies and may even be 'counter productive'. Some doctors believe exposure to peanuts early in life could save children from developing an allergy by priming their immune system.

Among studies suggesting this could work was research into the eating habits of 8,000 children in Britain and Israel, where the incidence of peanut allergy is less than two in 1,000. From eight months old the average Israeli child eats seven grams of peanuts a month - most British children eat none.


The little-known dangers of heavy water-drinking kill slimmer

A mother of five died after drinking too much water three weeks after she had begun a water-based diet in an attempt to lose weight, an inquest was told. Jacqueline Henson, 40, was determined to slim down from 14st (89kg) and was "over the moon" after losing nearly 12lb (5.4kg) in one week after starting the LighterLife diet plan, Huddersfield Coroner's Court was told yesterday.

The LighterLife diet, which has been linked with water poisoning, hair loss and disrupting the menstrual cycle, suggests that only 530 calories should be consumed a day - a quarter of a woman's recommended daily intake - for a period of 12 weeks, and drinking four litres of water per day.

Mrs Henson drank four litres of water in less than two hours on November 14, which caused her brain to swell. She collapsed in the bathroom of her home in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, and was pronounced dead the next day. Her husband, Brian, 40, said that he was devastated, and told the inquest how she had been "over the moon at losing weight". He said: "The more water she drank, the more weight she would lose." Mrs Henson had arrived home at 5pm and had drunk two large bottles of water before settling in front of the television, drinking from a pint glass of water she had poured herself.

Mr Henson said: "At 11pm she stood up and said her stomach was solid. She was walking across the room and was sick. "At 11.15pm she said she had a headache and went upstairs to the toilet. My 18-year-old daughter Chantelle went upstairs and I heard her saying, `Mum, mum'. I knew something was wrong. Her eyes were closed and she didn't appear to be breathing."

Joanna Neville, of LighterLife, was asked by the coroner, Roger Whittaker, about the potentially dangerous regime, but she explained that the diet, which is aimed at people who are 3st or more overweight, recommended drinking four litres of water over the course of a day in small amounts. Asked if the company conveyed that message to dieters, Ms Neville said: "We are doing that quite clearly and will continue to do so."

The court was told that on October 18 Mrs Henson had visited her GP, who had given her a check-up before allowing her to go on the diet. Recording a verdict of accidental death, the coroner said: "No one should drink water in the quantity that Mrs Henson did over that short a period. Little and often."

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommends that very low-calorie diets should be followed for a maximum of 12 weeks, and states that any diet of less than 600 calories should be used only under medical supervision.

LighterLife, which has an annual turnover of 18 million pounds and charges 66 per week for its specially tailored "food packs", claims to have helped 60,000 people to lose weight, despite the controversy surrounding its recommendations. The diet sets a target of losing 3st over 14 weeks. A spokesman for LighterLife said: "Our programme gives clear guidance that water should be consumed regularly over the course of the day, and the coroner confirmed the events were a tragic accident."


No comments: