Peanut Allergy..And the lessons learnt
Peanut allergy ? What’s that ? 100 years ago this would have been a normal response. Because peanut allergy was very uncommon then.
About 50 years ago allergy to peanuts started increasing. This happened first in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. Later it was seen frequently in other western countries.
Surprisingly, it was, and still is, quite uncommon in India and China. And even in Israel.
When peanut allergy increased in USA, the the American Academy of Paediatrics advised that peanuts should not be eaten by pregnant women and that peanuts should not be introduced too early in the diet of the child. It was hoped that this would bring down the rising prevalence of peanut allergy.
But later studies showed that this advise had the exact opposite effect. Peanut allergy increased even more !! Immaculately done scientific studies from Israel showed that avoiding peanuts in pregnancy actually incenses the chances of peanut allergy in the child.
Around the turn of the century, the same Academy issued a statement that their earlier advise was wrong and that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that avoidance of peanuts could help in this matter.
Coming back to the observation that peanut allergy is so uncommon in India. We Indians also consume a lot of peanuts. So do the Chinese. But they don’t get too much peanut allergy. Possibly, this has something to do with the “processing” of peanuts. Americans eat a lot of peanut butter or dry roasted peanuts. Asians use peanuts which are boiled, pickled or fried.
This also begs the question that if processing peanuts increases the chances of getting allergic to it, then does consumption of processed food in general is the reason why food allergy is becoming so much more common ?
What lesson can be learned ?
- Inception of allergy is a very complex area.
- We still don’t know all the answers.
- Once allergy has developed, avoidance is most certainly required. But by the same token, we cannot presume that avoidance will lessen the chances of development of allergy.
- By admitting your mistake, you don’t become smaller; in fact you become bigger !!