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New Drug Holds Promise for Peanut Allergy Sufferers

Hope is available for peanut allergy sufferers in the form of a new drug, TNX-901.


The drug blocks immunoglobulin E, a protein responsible for initiating the immune response that triggers the allergy symptoms in what can be a fatal condition.


In one clinical trial, subjects taking the drug were able to eat nine peanuts before having a reaction. However, the drug should not be used until testing is completed.


One and one-half million Americans suffer from peanut allergies, which can cause hives, wheezing, and respiratory arrest when eaten in even minute quantities. People with peanut allergies must avoid all contact with the food, which is often used in small amounts in many packaged foods and restaurant meals. Because some individuals are so acutely allergic and because of the increasing number of children who are allergic tp peanuts, numerous schools systems have banned peanut butter from their school cafeterias.


Currently, the only available treatment for an allergic reaction to peanuts is an injection of epinephrine immediately after eating a food containing the offending ingredient.


TNX-901 is expected to be available to the public within 3 to 4 years if tests go well. (Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2003)


Exercise and Upper Respiratory Problems

Research indicates that those who regularly exercise moderately have approximately 25% fewer upper respiratory infections than their sedentary counterparts. Therefore, not only can exercise have positive long-term health effects, it can also make life more pleasant in the short run.


Should you exercise if you are ill? It depends on the type of illness. For mild respiratory infections, such as colds, especially head colds, exercise doesn't have much of an effect either way. However, any illness with the symptoms of fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, or swollen lymph glands should be a time to relax and recuperate, not to work up a sweat. Heavy physical exertion can overtax the body and worsen the illness. It is best to avoid any exercise until symptoms are gone and avoid strenuous physical activity for 1 to 2 weeks afterward. (Consumer Reports on Health. 2003;15:7.)


Is Obesity an Indirect Result of the Decline in Real Income and Women Entering the Workforce?

In its February 2003 report "An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that changes in economic conditions during the last 30 years fostered an environment conducive to the development of obesity. The authors, Shin-Yi Chou, Henry Saffer, and Michael Grossman, associate the rise in fast-food meals to the proliferation of women in the workforce and the value of time concerning work and leisure. For certain groups, namely single-earner households and unmarried men and women, real income has declined since the 1970s, whereas the hours devoted to work have increased. Although home-prepared meals are marginally cheaper than dining out, the authors contend that the tradeoffs in time that must be invested in shopping and cooking, when compared with high-calorie low-cost meals that are available at convenient locations, make good economic sense. Obesity rates in the United States are highest among low-end wage earners, women, and nonwhites. (NBER Digest online.


Regional Differences in Blood Pressure Linked to Low Dietary Mineral Intake

Drawing on data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey III (NHANES-III) health workers report in the Journal of Nutrition that participants living in the South had the highest sodium intakes and the lowest potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, niacin, iron, and vitamin A, C, and B6 intakes. These individuals also had the highest reported systolic and diastolic blood pressures. The authors concluded that priority should be given to designing programs to reduce sodium consumption and increase dietary potassium and magnesium in the South. What was not stated is whether these differences resulted from region, income, or other factors that vary by region. (Current Awareness. 2003;16:5.)


The Family That Eats Together, Eats Healthfully

A study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior confirms that 227 families with school-aged children that plan meals, eat together often, and turn off the television during meals have higher fruit and vegetable intakes and lower overall fat consumption than those who do not. In addition, those families with higher incomes also had a lower fat consumption and increased fruit and vegetable intake. (J Nutr Educ Behav. 2003;35:24-29.)


Boutique Oils Become All the Rage

No longer is the choice simply corn or olive oil; supermarket shelves are exploding with oils of every imaginable flavor, from tea oil to several nut oils. Flavored oils come in two major types: olive oil infused with flavors or pure oils pressed from seeds, nuts, and fruits, such as walnut or sesame. At this time, citrus-infused olive oils represent one of the fastest growing categories of boutique oils. In addition to their desirable esthetic attributes, many of the oils offer a highly beneficial fatty acid profile. Because most of the oils are heat sensitive, they are best used in salads or as a finisher and kept cool. (San Francisco Chronicle. March 12, 2003.)


Vitamin E Supplements May Help Atopic Dermatitis

In a study evaluating the effect of vitamin E supplements on atopic dermatitis, researchers compared patients who received 400 IUs of vitamin E daily with those who took a placebo for 8 months. Atopic dermatitis causes itching and inflammation of the skin. Those who took the vitamin E had significantly greater improvement in their symptoms and had immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels decline by 62%, compared with a 34.4% decline in the group that took the placebo. The authors concluded: "vitamin E may play an important role in IgEmediated atopic responses in humans by significantly decreasing the serum IgE levels. This leads to an improvement in clinical symptoms." Stay tuned to see if other studies confirm it. (Research Alert, February 2003)


Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Those Newfangled Eggs

There are more choices of eggs than ever before available-but are they worth the extra money? A look at the following definitions may help you decide. Cage-free indicates that the hens were not caged, but it doesn't mean that they ran free, nor does it mean that they were raised without antibiotics or pesticides. By itself, this designation means little. Free-range chickens are not confined, and they eat a more natural diet, but again, this doesn't stop the producers from feeding the chickens some pesticide-containing meal. Eggs that are laid by these hens are usually higher in omega-3s. Eggs labeled organic are free of antibiotics and pesticides as required by the federal government's National Organic Program. Chickens also live uncaged. Eggs with an omega-3 enriched label contain between 100 and 350 mg of omega-3s. Although not nearly the amount of omega-3s found in certain seafood, these eggs may represent a good source of the nutrient for those who don't eat fatty fish or nuts. Lower cholesterol eggs are higher in omega-3s, lower in saturated fat, and lower in cholesterol than regular eggs. (MSNBC News. March 16, 2003.)


Will Radio Waves be the Next Bacterial Sanitizer?

Most fruit juice is pasteurized to rid it of harmful bacteria. However, the high temperatures used during pasteurization can adversely affect the beverages' taste and nutrient composition. The radio frequency electric fields (RFER) technique, a process that uses radio waves, can destroy bacteria without heating the food. David Geveke, a chemical engineer at the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Agricultural Research Service has conducted experiments rendering apple juice infected with Escherichia coli harmless after it was exposed to the high-intensity radio waves. Therefore, in addition to our radios, cellular phones, and global positioning systems, radio waves may be invading our kitchens!! (ARS News & Information. March 27, 2003)


More Controversy About Atkins?

Dr Atkins is dead, but some scientific skeptics may be coming around to some of his theories. At Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, Dr Stephen Sondike placed overweight teenagers on the Atkins diet and a low-fat isocaloric diet. The teens on the Atkins diet lost double the weight of those on the low-fat diet. In addition, a University of Cincinnati study found that women following the Atkins's plan lost twice as much weight as their isocaloric partners. However, neither of these studies answers the many legitimate questions that remain about the adverse effects of following a high-fat, high-cholesterol, low-fruit, and low-vegetable diet long-term. In fact, there aren't any studies that answer this question. In a review of 107 lowcarbohydrate diet studies completed by the Stanford Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research, researchers found that none of the studies lasted longer than 90 days or enrolled participants older than 53 years. However, a new study is underway that may do just this. Results should be available in 2 years. In the meantime, we recommend eating by the USDA pyramid (Associated Press, February 26, 2003.)