Friday, October 31, 2008

Children Who Avoid Nuts as Infants May Be at Risk for Peanut Allergy

According to a November report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, peanut allergy affects an estimated 3 million Americans. And, it is one of the most common triggers of anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life-threatening reaction. The incidence of peanut allergy has been on the rise in the United States, doubling in the five-year period from 1997-2002.

Now, new research from that same journal casts doubts on current government health recommendations. These potentially harmful government suggestions recommend that pregnant moms and infants avoid peanuts to prevent development of food allergy.

The study shows that children who avoided peanuts in infancy and early childhood were 10 times as likely to develop peanut allergy as those who were exposed to peanut.

Researchers measured the incidence of peanut allergy in 8,600 Jewish school-age children in the United Kingdom and Israel. They compared these results with data on peanut consumption collected from mothers of infants age 4 to 24 months. At 9 months of age, 69 percent of Israeli children were eating peanut, compared to 10 percent of those in the U.K.

Dietary guidelines in the United Kingdom, Australia (and – until earlier this year – the United States) advise avoidance of peanut consumption during pregnancy, breastfeeding and infancy. Researchers suggest these recommendations could be behind the increase in peanut allergy in these countries.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) cautions that although the results are promising, they shouldn’t translate to changes in treatment just yet. They advise you to check with your family doctor or allergist.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Large Study Confirms Heart Attack Risk for Women on Hormone Replacement

New research on the association between Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and heart attacks has been published online by Europe’s leading cardiology journal, the European Heart Journal. The study is the largest to look at the effects of HRT since the Women’s Health Initiative trial was stopped early after finding that HRT increased the risk of women developing a range of conditions including breast cancer and other health risks.

In this study, it appears that it is not so much the HRT that is the problem for women with heart attacks, it is the way that the hormone regimen is taken.

The research is a study of nearly 700,000 healthy Danish women, aged 51-69, who were followed between 1995-2001. The study found that in younger women (aged 51-54), their risk of heart attacks was 24% higher than in women who had never taken HRT. In addition, in younger women there was an increasing risk of heart attack the longer the HRT continued, which was not seen in the older age groups.

The study found that the type of HRT and the way that the women took it made a difference to the risk of heart attacks. Continuous HRT (a continuous combination of estrogen and progesterone) carried a 35% increased risk of heart attacks compared with women who had never used HRT. But if HRT was taken on a cyclical basis (estrogen, followed by a combination of estrogen and progesterone) there was a tendency for these women to have a reduced risk of heart attack. If the method of taking the estrogen was via a patch or gel on the skin or in the vagina, the risk of heart attack was reduced by more than a third (38% and 44% respectively).

Dr Ellen L√łkkegaard, an MD who led the study at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, said: “Our study does not change indications and duration recommendations for HRT. But the main message is that when hormone therapy is indicated for a woman, then a cyclic combined regimen should be preferred, and that application via the skin or the vagina is associated with decreased risks."

Since the WHI trial was stopped, no further randomized controlled trials of HRT have been started.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The WHAM of Grapes: Possible High Blood Pressure Aid?

A new University of Michigan study suggests that eating grapes can help fight high blood pressure related to a salty diet, as well as calm some of those other factors related to heart diseases.

The new study, published in the October issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, gives clues to the potential of grapes in reducing cardiovascular risk. The effect is thought to be due to the high level of phytochemicals – naturally occurring antioxidants – that grapes contain. (As you know, grapes have shown other cardio benefits when they are used in the production of wine, as well.)

The researchers noted that while these study results are extremely encouraging, more research needs to be done in humans, as this work was with animals.

The researchers studied the effect of regular table grapes (a blend of green, red, and black grapes) that were mixed into the test animals' diet in a powdered form, as part of either a high or low-salt diet. They performed many comparisons between the rats consuming the test diet and the control rats receiving no grapes — including some that received a mild dose of a common blood-pressure drug. All the rats were from a research breed that develops high blood pressure when fed a salty diet.

In all, after 18 weeks, the rats that received the grape-enriched diet had lower blood pressure, better heart function, reduced inflammation throughout their bodies, and fewer signs of heart muscle damage than the rats that ate the same salty diet but didn’t receive grapes. The rats that received the blood-pressure medicine, hydrazine, along with a salty diet also had lower blood pressure, but their hearts were not protected from damage as they were in the grape-fed group.

U-M heart surgeon Steven Bolling, M.D., a professor of cardiac surgery at the U-M Medical School, notes that the animals in the study were in a similar situation to millions of Americans, who have high blood pressure related to diet, and who develop heart failure over time because of prolonged hypertension.

“The inevitable downhill sequence to hypertension and heart failure was changed by the addition of grapes to a high-salt diet,” he says.

“Although there are many natural compounds in the grape powder itself that may have an effect, the things that we think are having an effect against the hypertension may be the flavanoids – either by direct antioxidant effects, by indirect effects on cell function, or both. These flavanoids are rich in all parts of the grape - skin, flesh and seed." Bolling explained that all of these ingredients were in the rats' diet.

I don't know about you, but I am going to start placing "table grapes" on my table more often!