Safe Eating

Food allergies can be very difficult for people who have them. You are limited in what you can eat and you must be careful to not eat foods which have even little bits of the dangerous ingredients. Having an allergy to peanuts doesn’t mean avoiding just the nuts. People with the allergy have to check warnings which say ‘this food may contain peanuts’ to be sure.

To improve the labeling system and to have a better view of what causes food allergies, Professor Clare Mills from the University of Manchester is leading a global food allergy study which will be the largest ever of its kind. The study, called the Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk or iFAAM began in March this year. It includes 39 partners from 17 countries including Britain, the US and Australia.

The aims of iFAAM are as large as the sample of people studied. The project wants to improve food industry understanding of food allergies and the amounts of allergen which can cause a reaction. The project also hopes to see what role a mother’s diet plays in the development of allergies. Among the people tested will be 12,000 children, who will be studied over three years. Professor Mills explained that what these mothers ate while pregnant will be studied too.

“We are collecting information about what the mothers were eating during pregnancy, breast feeding and the way the children were weaned,” she said. These findings will be collected and checked against existing allergies.

Right now the understanding of food allergies is not very complete which is why this study is needed. Professor Mills said that now specialists don’t know at what age food allergies begin. Hopefully, this question and many others will be answered during the study.

“Do changes in diet influence allergies early in life?” Professor Mills said was another issue the project will be trying to answer.

To test for allergies an allergologist may use a skin-prick test or a blood test. A skin-prick test is when a small amount of allergen is put on the skin to see if the skin reacts. The next step would be to do a blood test to see if immunoglobin E or IGE was in the blood when people ate a particular food. A food allergy happens when the body produces IGE after eating a certain food. IGE’s main role is to protect the body from parasites by attaching itself to harmful organisms. However in some people, the IGE can respond to other proteins in the body and attach themselves to these. When the antibody does this, the body’s immune system sends white blood cells to attack the food. The white blood cells release histamines which cause inflammation of the skin. A more severe reaction is called anaphylaxis. This is when the body’s immune system prevents the organs from functioning properly.

The foods that cause the most allergies in people are eggs, nuts, wheat and crustaceans. Two foods of particular concern in Europe are hazel nuts and celeriac.

Now, we will have to wait and see what the results will be. Hopefully, there will be some comfort for people with food allergies.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team 

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Food allergies can be very difficult for people who have them. You can eat only some foods and musn’t eat even little bits of the dangerous ingredients. An allergy to peanuts doesn´t mean you can‘t eat only the nuts. People with the allergy have to check warnings which say ‘this food may contain peanuts’ to be sure.

To understand better what causes food allergies, Professor Clare Mills from the University of Manchester is doing a very large global food allergy study. The study began in March this year. It includes 39 partners from 17 countries including Britain, the US and Australia.

The project will study about 12,000 children and their mothers for over three years. “We are collecting information about what the mothers were eating during pregnancy, breast feeding and the way the children were weaned,” she said.

Right now the understanding of food allergies is not very complete. For example, specialists don’t know at what age food allergies begin. Hopefully, the experts will find the answers during the study.

“Do changes in diet influence allergies early in life?” Professor Mills said the project will also try to answer this question.

To test for allergies an allergologist can use two tests: a skin-prick test or a blood test. A skin-prick test is when you get a small amount of allergen on the skin to see if the skin reacts. Then the doctors can do a blood test to see if immunoglobin E or IGE was in the blood when people ate a particular food. A food allergy happens when the body produces IGE after eating a certain food. A very strong reaction is called anaphylaxis. This is when the body’s immune system stops the organs functioning properly.

The foods that cause the most allergies in people are eggs, nuts, wheat and crustaceans. Two foods of interest in Europe are hazel nuts and celeriac.

Now, we will have to wait for the results. Hopefully, there will be some comfort for people with food allergies.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team 

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Food allergies can be a terrible burden for those who suffer from them. You are limited in what you can eat and you must be careful to avoid foods which have traces of the offending ingredients. Having an allergy to peanuts doesn’t mean avoiding just the nuts, people with the allergy have to check warnings which say ‘this food may contain peanuts’ to be sure.

To improve the labeling techniques and to provide a much better picture of what causes food allergies, Professor Clare Mills from the University of Manchester is heading up a pan-European food allergy study which will be the largest ever of its kind. The study, called the Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk or iFAAM commenced on the 19th March this year. It includes 39 partners from 17 countries including Britain, the US and Australia.

The aims of iFAAM are as broad as the sample of people studied. The project aims to improve food industry understanding of food allergies and the amounts of allergen which can cause a reaction. This knowledge will hopefully improve the production process so that the warning labels which read ‘may contain’ do not need to be used so often. This outcome will no doubt be welcomed by people with food allergies who have to avoid foods because of the slim chance it may contain an allergen.

The project also seeks to identify the role of a mother’s diet in the development of allergies. Among the people tested will be 12,000 children, who will be studied over three years. Professor Mills explained that what these mothers ate while expecting will be studied too.

“We are collecting information about what the mothers were eating during pregnancy, breast feeding and the way the children were weaned,” she said. These findings will be collated and checked against existing allergies.

Amazingly, current understanding of food allergies is quite patchy hence the need for such a wide study. Professor Mills said that at the moment, specialists aren’t even able to say what age food allergies begin. Hopefully, this question and many others will be answered in the course of the study.

“Do changes in diet influence allergies early in life?” Professor Mills said was another of the issues the project will be trying to resolve.

To test for allergies an allergologist or researcher may use a skin-prick test or a blood test. A skin-prick test is when a small amount of allergen is placed on the skin to see if the skin reacts. Professor Mills explained that researchers were looking for a “wheel,” a circular patch of red skin. The color, size and itchiness provide an understanding of the severity.

The next step would be to do a blood test to see if immunoglobin E or IGE was present in the blood when people ate a particular food. The presence of IGE is a strong sign of an allergy and is the difference between food intolerance and a food allergy. Food intolerance means the body has problems digesting certain substances, for example people who are lactose intolerant feel sick when they consume dairy because they can’t break down the lactose (a sugar in milk). The lactose passes to the colon where it is broken down by bacteria causing diarrhoea and flatulence.

A food allergy on the other hand occurs when the body produces IGE after a certain food is consumed. IGE’s main role is to protect the body from parasites by attaching itself to harmful organisms, namely their proteins. However in some people, the IGE can respond to other proteins in the body and attach themselves to these. When the antibody does this, the body’s immune system sends white blood cells to attack the tagged food by releasing histamines which causes inflammation of the skin. A more severe even potentially life-threatening reaction is anaphylaxis when the body’s immune system prevents organs from functioning properly. For people with food allergies, anaphylaxis can be brought on by a specific food and the results can be hives, a drop in blood pressure, coronary problems and difficulty breathing. For this reason, anaphylaxis is potentially fatal. It’s why determining if a person has an allergy is so important.

The typical culprits in regards to food allergies are eggs, nuts, wheat and crustaceans to name a few. However, the previous project Professor Mills was involved in also found children who had allergies to sweet potatos and broccoli. Two foods of particular concern in Europe are hazel nuts and celeriac.

The final step in testing for allergies is a double-blind oral challenge. If a person has a positive response to an IGE blood test, he or she will then try different foods with the allergen disguised. In a sense they are ‘blinded’. The people giving the food will not know what they are giving them, so they will be ‘blind’ too. Double-blind tests are common in science to ensure neither tester nor subject is influencing the outcome. Double-blind oral tests are not done when people clearly have severe reactions. It’s too dangerous. “Approximately 50 to 70% of people who have positive IGE test, test positive to double-blind oral challenges,” Professor Mills said.

Now, it’s just a matter of time to see what the results will be. Hopefully, there will be some comfort for people with food allergies.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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