Allergies Prevention

Food allergies may be linked to chemicals in tap water

New research suggests that chemicals in tap water are linked to the huge rise in food allergies.Food allergies may be linked to chemicals in tap waterFood allergies have risen sharply over the past 20 years, with 1-2 per cent of adults and 4-6 per cent of children thought to be affected. The number of children admitted to hospital for food-related anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction) has risen seven-fold since 1990 – but no one quite knows why.

The latest theory Food Allergies? Pesticides in Tap Water Might be to Blame, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, suggests that chemicals called dichlorophenols could be to blame.

US researchers who looked at food allergies in more than 2,000 people found that those with the highest levels of dichlorophenols in their urine had an 80 per cent higher risk of having a food allergy.

Their theory is that dichlorophenols, which they say are found in purified tap water and in pesticides and disinfectants, have anti-bacterial properties that could affect the microflora in the gut that are thought to protect against food allergies.

Dichlorophenols are also by-products of a common antibacterial and antifungal agent called triclosan (used in many consumer products, including toothpaste) and in the UK are more likely to be found in household cleaning products, kitchen utensils and containers and pesticide residues than in water.

Although little research has been done on UK exposure levels, the Chemicals Regulation Directorate says dichlorophenols “have not been identified as a cause of concern”.

The reason behind the rise in food and other allergies remains a mystery.

One well-known theory is the hygiene hypothesis – that as we become increasingly obsessed with cleanliness, our children are not exposed to the bugs that help the immune system develop properly. Another unproven theory is that the rise in allergies may be due to basic changes in Western diets, with processed foods becoming more common and fresh fruit and veg less so.

Some experts now think that government guidelines introduced in the Nineties may have contributed to the explosion in food allergies. “Parents were advised to avoid giving peanuts to young infants on the grounds that early consumption of potential allergens could affect underdeveloped immune systems, resulting in allergy – when the opposite seems to be the case,” says Prof Brostoff.

The guidelines were quietly withdrawn in 2009 after a large study the previous year showed that Jewish children living in the UK were almost 10 times more likely to develop a peanut allergy than those living in Israel, where peanut protein – often in the form of Bamba, a popular snack – is commonly given to infants in the first year of life.

Prof Brostoff says the best thing parents can do to reduce the risk of food allergy in their children is to gradually introduce potential allergens – not just peanuts, but cow’s milk, eggs and fish – at an early age.

“The lining of the gut membrane is the most powerful immune organ in the body,” he says. “The advice I always give is that it is better to introduce foods when the gut is more plastic and able to adapt. Giving a food early in a baby’s life can help make the gut more tolerant, and numerically this effect is more important than the presence in the environment of any chemicals.”

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Eating nuts in pregnancy reduces chance of childhood allergies

Pregnant mothers should eat nuts as it reduces the chances of their children developing allergies new research has found.Eating nuts in pregnancy reduces chance of childhood allergiesChildren of women who eat peanuts and other nuts during pregnancy are a third less likely to suffer from asthma by the age of seven, compared to those whose mothers avoid them, researchers discovered.

For years pregnant women were advised against eating nuts of any kind due to concerns that they could increase the risk of allergies in their offspring.

But in 2009, the Food Standards Agency revised its advice, stating there was “no clear evidence that eating or not eating peanuts during pregnancy, breastfeeding or early childhood has any effect on the chances of a child developing a peanut allergy”.

Now Danish researchers have gone a step further – finding that eating nuts while expecting has a protective effect on babies.

British experts said they hoped the “robust” study would help discredit the myth that foods containing nuts were somehow intrinsically dangerous for most children.

The new study looked at more than 60,000 mothers and their children, following them from early pregnancy until the children were seven.

Nut eating during pregnancy reduced the chance of a child being classes as asthmatic at 18 months by about a quarter, and a third at seven years.

Writing in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Ekaterina Maslova and colleagues from the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, said: “We found that maternal peanut and tree nut intake one or more times per week during pregnancy decreases the risk of allergic disease in childhood. These results do not support avoidance of nuts during pregnancy.”

Colin Michie, chairman of nutrition at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, hoped women would take note of the findings, which mirrored others showing early exposure to nuts was beneficial for the developing immune system.

He went on: “Recent studies such as this robust research show the truth of granny’s wisdom, that a little bit of everything tends to be good for you.

“If your body has experienced something before, it’s not going to think that it’s an enemy and come out fighting against it, which is what happens with an allergic response.”

“Scientifically speaking, if you have antigens that are present when you are building up your immune repertoire as a foetus and infant, you are less likely to regard something as foreign or dangerous when you encounter large quantities of it.”

This school of thought is exactly the same as that in the hygiene hypothesis, which contends that growing up in a home that is too clean is bad for a child, as it prevents exposure to bugs that stimulate the immune system.

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Eating-nuts-in-pregnancy-reduces-chance-of-childhood-allergy

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