Friday, December 12, 2008

GOING NUTS OVER NUTS

British Medical Journal - Measures imposed to reduce exposure to nuts are often based on irrational fears of nut allergies and are becoming increasingly sensationalist, according to a doctor on bmj.com .

A peanut on the floor of a school bus leading to evacuation and decontamination for fear that it might be eaten by the 10 year old passengers, and schools declaring themselves "nut free" by banning nuts, peanut butter, home baked goods and any foods without ingredient labels, are just some examples cited in this article.

According to Professor Nicolas Christakis from Harvard Medical School, there is no evidence that any of these extreme restrictions work better than more circumscribed policies or that they are worth the money and disruptions they create.

In the US, 150 people die each year from food allergies. This is compared to the 50 who die from bee stings, the 100 who die from lightening strikes, the 45,000 who die in motor vehicle accidents, and the 10,000 who are hospitalized for traumatic brain injury from playing sport. But these issues do not incur such extreme reactions, such as calling for an end to sport.

Christakis says that the "gross over-reaction to the magnitude of the threat" is very similar to mass psychogenic illness, previously known as epidemic hysteria.

Often seen occurring in small towns, schools and factories, these outbreaks of MPI involve healthy people in a flow of anxiety, most often triggered by a fear of contamination. Being around individuals who are anxious heightens others' anxiety.

These extreme measures to reduce exposure to nuts are fueling anxiety in parents, leading to more sensitization, and creating the very epidemic they are designed to stop. A recent study has suggested that early exposure to peanuts actually reduces, rather than increases the risk of allergy.

Christakis concludes by calling for a level-headed strategy to deal with this phenomenon before it spirals out of control.

6 Comments:

At December 12, 2008 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The incredible levels of hysteria that have been generated over this non-threat by parents (usually moms in the affluent 'hipster/yuppie' demographic, I've frequently noticed) just tend to reinforce my personal belief that breeding truly does cause degeneration of brain cells.

 
At December 12, 2008 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most dangerous variety of nuts most kids face exposure to is their parents.

 
At December 12, 2008 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget the contribution made by insurance companies and lawyers to this nonsense.

 
At December 13, 2008 12:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not forget to add avian flu to the hysterical mix.
That, too, is once again starting to make its rounds. Folks are already starting to look cross-eyed at my humble flock of chickens. I've already been asked if I feel safe having them in my yard. Let me state here and now to those so concerned, it's not the chickens that give me pause. What's more, I feel perfectly safe with the four varieties of nut trees and bushes surrounding my yard.
My only problem seems to be nuts of the two legged variety.
cheers!

 
At December 13, 2008 12:11 PM, Anonymous There must be more money! said...

Well obviously we need to curb this menace. Fell all nut trees, pecans,walnuts. Let's cut down hickories and oaks too, then burn them all in some giant tribute to ignorance and self-loathing. I mean the earth is dirty and dangerous. I think much of D.H. Lawrence's brilliant work centers around human creation of an environment unsuitable for their entire evolution. Every once in a while I think of the scene from Srike Pay wherein the striking miners have received their weekly pittance and make straight for the taverns, They pass a fence where the mine's draft ponies are staring forlornly at a day of idle freedom . Instead of freedom the ponies and the miners see confusion and emptiness. Lawrence thought western civ was neurotic and wrongheaded. Bingo, Mr. Lawrence.

 
At December 15, 2008 12:08 PM, Anonymous The Lorax said...

Lest a anyone rush out and harm a tree to curb this menace, remember that peanuts (a legume) grow underground on a vine.

 

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