Dr. Kevin Most: Fast food and Peanuts

Doctor Kevin Most

Fast food- is it the food or the wrapper??

Now we have talked for years about fast food and how many calories are often hidden in there. Well a study came out last week that says, “hey don’t just blame to burger”, even the wrapper has to share some of the blame. Chemicals found in fast food wrappers have been shown to slow down metabolism and thus add to weight gain, it certainly gets in the way of weight loss. The chemicals called PFAS’s are found in the wrappers of fast food, this is the chemical that keeps the grease from soaking thru the wrapper. This same chemical is absorbed into the food and then consumed and enter the blood stream.

A study out of Harvard followed over 600 individuals, They were comparing four heart healthy diets and weight loss over a four year period. The study showed individuals lost an average of 14 pounds over the first 6 months but regained half of that back over the next 18 months. The individuals who gained the most weight back also had the highest concentration of PFAS’s. It also appears to impact women more than men. One of their findings was a link between high PFAS’s and a lower metabolic rate in the patients with high levels of PFAS’s. The lower metabolic rate makes it difficult to burn calories and thus lose weight or in this case actually caused an increase in weight. So the fast food wrapped in this material actually increases the impact of the high calories in the food by slowing the metabolism that would allow one to burn those calories off.

Now we have to be fair and not just blame the fast food wrappers as these chemicals are found elsewhere like no stick pans, microwave popcorn bags, and even in some clothing. The researchers say that avoiding the PFAS will help people avoid the negative aspects of the chemicals including weight control. Total avoidance is almost impossible but avoiding fast food and microwave popcorn will help minimize the exposure you control and have a positive impact on your health.

Peanut allergy breakthrough

How many PBJ sandwiches did you have growing up? For many of us it was thousands, but those days have changed as we have seen the number of children with allergies to peanuts. The PBJ was a great sandwich for kids, it contains Vit E, Vit B and a good source of protein. It also was an inexpensive way to feed children.

The prevalence of peanut allergies has risen more than threefold in the past 10 years. Estimates now are that 2 million individuals under the age of 18 are allergic to peanuts in the United States. This increase has left scientists scratching their heads, trying to come up with the reason why we have seen this dramatic increase. There are some ideas- hand sanitizer, clean environment, lack of vit d from lack of outdoor activities and …….. WE still do not have a solid explanation to the rapid growth of peanut allergies.

A few years ago, there was a thought that keeping peanuts away from pregnant females may decrease the chance of the infant from becoming allergic to peanuts. That was noted to not only be false but may actually lead to more children with peanut allergies. The NIH has issued advice that infants should be exposed to peanut containing foods around the age of 6 months, starting with watered down peanut butter in small safe amounts

This is a very serious allergy, it is the leading cause of fatal reactions due to allergies. Patients as they age are very aware of what to look for in food items, they are taught to ask and refrain from any foods that may have peanuts in them or were prepared with peanut oil. The impact has been felt thru many industries, some airlines have gone completely peanut free to minimize the chance of a child having a reaction while in the air. Other companies have changed how they prepare foods in an attempt to eliminate peanuts.

Treatment in the past has really been focused on what to do after an exposure. This treatment includes the use of antihistamines, (histamine is released when the body is exposed to anything they are allergic to, think seasonal allergies) other forms of allergies include the use of Epi Pen for severe reactions. This allows for the patient to give themselves a shot of adrenaline outside of the medical setting and can be lifesaving.

A study of 500 children with peanut allergies came out last week that is quite promising for the possible tolerance to peanut allergies. This treatment is focused on eliminating or minimizing the impact of the allergic response. The study shows the impact of using a medication that is actually a powder made from peanut protein. The concept is to expose the child to a small amount of peanut powder to the patient daily in their diet. The amount is then increased to a point where the exposure to peanuts would not cause a severe allergic response. The study showed this took about 6 months. The concept is that small increasing doses allows for a tolerance to be built up by the patient. In this study 67% of the individuals were able to tolerate 600 milligrams of peanut protein, this would be the equivalent of child size bite of a PBJ sandwich. To put it in perspective at the start of the study these patients could not handle 10% of a single patient and at the end they could tolerate 2 full peanuts. Now some patients were very sensitive to the peanut protein and had to drop out of the study.

This concept is not new, think of the individuals who get “allergy shots” These shots are not to treat an allergic reaction. These shots are given to make the response to an exposure less severe. This has helped millions minimize symptoms due to many environmental allergies. The shots are started at a low dose and then increased, hopefully getting to a point where exposure to the allergen does not cause the symptoms that we take medication to treat.

That being said, we have to understand that peanut allergies are a lot different than ragweed. The allergic reactions to peanuts can be life threatening where the allergic reactions to ragweed are an inconvenience. Although this treatment is very promising, the site of treatment will be looked at closely. This treatment may need to be completed in a medical setting initially in case there is a severe reaction.

The overall endpoint of this treatment is not to get to a point where a child could eat peanuts regularly, it is about where it would potentially protect people from having a severe or fatal reaction from exposure to a small amount of peanut protein. So this is not a cure, in fact it may be a continuous treatment as they currently are not sure what happens if the treatment is stopped. Estimates are that the first six months would have a cost of $5,000-$10,000 and then a maintenance dosing would cost $300-400/ month.