One in two adults takes a vitamin pill. Over half of the patients that we see are on some "alternative medication" - minerals, vitamins, etc. According to a recent article in the New York Times, alternative medications have sales in this country of over $30 billion dollars a year. It is largely an unregulated industry, and a New York Times op ed noted that these medications have been found to be contaminated with arsenic, other toxic metals, and even androgenic steroids.
Does the potential benefit outweigh the potential harm? Not according to controlled studies. They do not prevent cancer, heart disease, or prolong life.
For those who are interested in a reasonable discussion on alternative medications, we highly recommend the new book "Do You Believe in Magic" by Dr. Paul Offit. Dr. Offit is a Pediatric Infectious Disease physician at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia.
Statins are a class of medications widely used to lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks and strokes. Recent studies have found that they also have beneficial effects on the immune system, and in fact adults with asthma on statins have less emergency visits for asthma, and lower needs for oral corticosteroids to treat asthma flares.
A significant problem for parents with young children with food allergies is assessing the relative risks. In all cases, food allergy must be taken seriously by everyone involved - the child, parents, relatives, and all caretakers. However over concern can create other problems, so a perspective is needed. The following risk assessments may be helpful.
A recent article (Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy) reviewed risks of fatal reactions from food allergy, and compared with other risks of fatality.
Death rate from anaphylaxis to food allergies (all ages) - 1.81 per million people per year
In those younger than 19 years - 3.25 per million people per year
Death from accidents - 399 per million people per year
Chance of dying from a car accident - 109 per million people per year
U.S. murder rate - 53 per million people per year
Chance of being shot 36 per million people per year
Death rate from anaphylaxis to food allergies (all ages) - 1.81 per 1 million people per year
Peanut allergic children - 4.25 per million children per year
One of the most common questions we are asked by patients with tree nut allergy is whether coconut is a fruit or a nut. Unfortunately, the answer is a little complicated. Botanically, the coconut is classified as a fruit--more specifically, it is a drupe. Drupes are more commonly called stone fruits. Other stone fruits include peaches and nectarines; blackberries and raspberries are drupes comprised of aggregates of drupelets. The United States Food and Drug Administration consider coconuts to be a tree nut. The federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that all packaged food products sold in the U.S. that contain tree nuts as an ingredient must list it on the label. This act does require coconut to be listed specifically. Ultimately, allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, but most patients with a tree nut allergy are able to tolerate it. If you have a tree nut allergy, you should discuss adding coconut to your diet with us first. It should be noted that peanuts are actually not a nut…they are a legume. Some other common foods that are mistaken for nuts are nutmeg, butternut squash, and water chestnuts.