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Nuts and Bolts About Health
Nut Allergy Truths and Perceptions
Allergy Facts For All Nuts
Peanut & Tree Nut Allergy Facts Presented in conjunction with the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network ("FAAN"). For more information about FAAN, click here. Please note: people can be allergic to both peanuts and tree nuts. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you think you or your child may have allergies or if you have questions about allergies. What is a food allergy? How many people have peanut and tree nut allergies? Are all peanut allergies and tree nut allergies life-threatening? Are all "nut allergies" the same (is a peanut allergy the same as a tree nut allergy in terms of prevalence, symptoms and treatment)? Why do some people who have a peanut or tree nut allergy die from their reactions? What could cause my child to have a peanut or tree nut allergies? If my child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, what are the chances that my future children will have it? Now that my child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, I am concerned about him/her going out to a restaurant, going to a friend's house, going to school or even staying with a babysitter. Any suggestions? My child's friend has a severe peanut allergy. What can I do to help keep him symptom-free in my home? If my child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, how can I teach his friends about the allergy (what to do and what to avoid)? Can you tell me of some unexpected hidden sources of peanut or tree nut allergens? Q: What is a food allergy? A: A food allergy occurs when the immune system of someone who has the allergy mistakenly believes that a harmless substance, for example, a peanut protein, is harmful. In its attempt to protect the body, the immune system of an allergic person creates antibodies and, for example, when peanut protein is ingested by a person with a peanut allergy, massive amounts of chemicals and histamines are released in order to protect the body. These chemicals trigger a cascade of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system. Q: How many people have peanut and tree nut allergies? A: It is estimated that 1.5 million Americans are allergic to peanuts and that 1.5 million Americans are allergic to tree nuts. In total, about one percent of the population (or about 10 per thousand) are allergic to either peanuts or tree nuts. This allergy is considered lifelong. Even small amounts of peanuts can cause a reaction in some individuals. That's why it is so important to strictly avoid peanuts if you are allergic to them. Q: Are all peanut allergies and tree nut allergies life threatening? A: No. Some people with a peanut allergy or a tree nut allergy only develop eczema, a mild rash around the mouth or an upset stomach after eating peanuts. Others may have severe, life-threatening reactions called anaphylaxis, which includes swelling of the mouth or throat, difficulty breathing or a drop in blood pressure, after eating just a small amount of peanuts or tree nuts. Anyone with peanut allergies or tree nut allergies could potentially have a life-threatening reaction if exposed to a sufficiently large amount of peanuts or tree nuts, so it is important to always be prepared for a reaction. Be sure to have clear instructions from your doctor about how to treat an allergic reaction. Always carry medications, and act quickly if a reaction does occur. Q: Are all nut allergies the same (for example, is a peanut allergy the same as a tree nut allergy in terms of prevalence, symptoms and treatment)? A: Peanuts are legumes; they are in the bean family and grow in the ground. Tree nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, cashews) grow on trees. The two foods are not related. The number of people who are allergic to tree nuts is about the same as those who are allergic to peanuts. Allergic reactions to tree nuts can cause the same types of symptoms and are treated the same way as allergic reactions to peanuts. People can be allergic to both peanuts and tree nuts or just one or the other. Q: Why do some people who have a peanut or tree nut allergy die from their reactions? A: Reactions usually occur when someone unknowingly eats a food with the allergen (peanut or tree nut) in it. Most often, fatalities occur when allergic persons don't recognize early warning signs of an allergic reaction, don't have medication with them, or there is a delay in getting emergency help. If you have a peanut or tree nut allergy or suspect you have an allergy to peanuts, tree nuts or any food, talk to your doctor, see an allergist, get a proper diagnosis and always be prepared for a reaction. Q: What could cause my child to have peanut or tree nut allergies? A: Some parents feel a sense of guilt when their child is diagnosed with a peanut or tree nut allergy because they worry that the allergy could have been prevented if they had done something differently. Don't feel guilty! Researchers don't fully understand why some people develop allergies while others do not. At this time, there are no indications that any actions during pregnancy can cause a baby to develop a peanut or tree nut allergy. Q: If my child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, what are the chances that my future children will have it? A: No one can predict with certainty whether your next child will or will not develop food allergies. However, if one child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, there is a greater chance of a second child having the allergy, too. Q: Now that my child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, I am concerned about him/her going out to a restaurant, going to a friend's house, going to school or even staying with a babysitter. Any suggestions? A: There are many resources available to help you understand allergies and how to communicate with others on whom you rely to help keep your child safe. Education, cooperation and awareness are the keys to successfully managing the allergy while participating in normal activities—especially school. You're not alone. The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) has many tools to help you, including resources that cover all of these situations, and many more. Contact FAAN at www.foodallergy.org or(800) 929-4040 for more information. Your child can have a perfectly normal life once you, your child and the caretaker(s) are knowledgeable about peanut allergies and prepared for an allergic reaction. Q: My child's friend has a severe peanut allergy. What can I do to help keep him symptom-free in my home? A: The key to preventing a reaction is to discuss the child's allergy with the parents. Most parents will ask that you not feed their child (they may send a snack to your home), that you keep the child's medication at your home while the child is visiting and that you call the family at the first sign of a reaction. Keep in mind that the children are usually well educated about what to do and what to avoid. Follow their lead. Q: If my child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, how can I teach his friends about the allergy (what to do and what to avoid)? A: Below are some suggestions from FAAN's Be a P.A.L. (Protect A Life) campaign: Don't share your food with friends who have food allergies. Wash your hands after eating. Ask what your friends are allergic to and help them avoid it. If an allergic friend becomes ill, get help immediately! Q: Can you tell me some unexpected hidden sources of peanut or tree nut allergens? A: It is important to read every food label and to ask questions when dining away from home because peanuts, peanut butter and tree nuts can show up almost anywhere. Here are just a few examples of foods that have caused reactions due to unexpected peanut ingredients in restaurant meals: chili, spaghetti sauce, egg rolls, brown gravy, meat marinade, beef stew and enchilada sauce.Read More
Good Fats vs. Bad Fats
What is fat? Our bodies use fat for energy, for building and maintaining cells, and to absorb vitamins. Adults need only one-third of their daily calories to come from dietary fat.1 Fat is found in both plants and animal products and not all fats are the same. Good Fats vs. Bad Fats “Bad” fats include both saturated fat, which is found in meat and dairy, and trans-fatty acids, which are present in foods processed with hydrogenated oils. High intakes of most saturated fats and trans-fatty acids raise cholesterol and put your heart health at risk. But some fats help. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats benefit heart health by lowering bad cholesterol.1,2 The Peanut Where can you find these good-for-you fats? The hall of fame for foods containing these better-for-you fats will include peanuts and tree nuts, avocados, olives, and some fish. Most people are not aware that the popular peanut is loaded with heart-healthy fats; more than 80% of the fat found in peanuts is made up of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These healthy fats can help keep blood vessels supple and lower cholesterol. Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. [See nutrition information for fat content].3 http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Know-Your-Fats_UCM_305628_Article.jsp http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fat/NU00262 “Qualified Health Claims: Letter of Enforcement Discretion—Nuts and Coronary Heart Disease (Docket No 02P-0505). United States Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition 2003. Available at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/qhcnuts2.htmlRead More
Your Health, Your Lifestyle
Nuts and Heart Health
Here's good news if you're nuts about nuts. Over the past decade, a substantial amount of research has suggested that eating nuts in moderation—including peanuts and most tree nuts—can help keep your heart healthy. In fact, the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 20151 recommends consuming 5 ounces of nuts, seeds and soy products per week based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Large-scale population studies have concluded that eating nuts is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and clinical studies have linked this benefit to the cholesterol-lowering effect of adding nuts to the diet. In 2003, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced that it would allow certain types of nuts to make a qualified heart health claim. Specifically, the FDA allows the following statement to appear on the packages of whole or chopped peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, and some pine nuts: "Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. [See nutrition information for fat content]."2 Additionally, major dietary recommendations such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) and the American Heart Association Lifestyle Management Guide (2013), among others, recommend eating nuts as a part of a balanced diet in their guidelines. How Do Nuts Help? Most tree nuts and peanuts contain significant amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They are naturally cholesterol free, contain 0g trans fat and contain substantially less saturated fat than monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Replacing foods in the diet that are high in saturated fats with plant foods that are high in unsaturated fats—such as peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, and pecans—can lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol, doing so helps reduce the risk of heart disease. But the exact way in which nuts help reduce heart disease risk may not be due solely to the "good" fats found in nuts. Nuts are good sources of many other nutrients, such as dietary fiber, several B vitamins, antioxidant vitamin E, magnesium and copper. In a recent article, researchers from the Pennsylvania State University suggest that the cholesterol-lowering effect of nuts is about 25% higher than would be expected based solely on the "good" fat content of nuts. It appears that besides the "good" fats in nuts, one or more of these other nutrients may help provide the additional cholesterol-lowering benefit, hence heart-protective effects. While the research on nuts' beneficial effects on heart health is positive, we can’t forget the importance of managing calorie intake. It is important to substitute nuts for foods that contain higher amounts of saturated fat, and to do so without increasing the total number of calories in your diet that you need to maintain a healthy body weight. Nuts Are Recommended in Heart-Healthy Eating Plans Two diets in particular—DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), developed by scientists supported by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and The Portfolio Diet, designed by scientists at the University of Toronto—include nuts in their plans for healthy eating. These diets were designed based on optimal dietary patterns to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering high blood pressure or blood cholesterol levels. The DASH eating plan, rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, protein and fiber, includes whole grain products, fish and poultry, and also recommends eating four to five servings of nuts, seeds and legumes a week. In the DASH eating plan, a serving of nuts is equal to one ounce. Nuts, seeds and legumes provide magnesium, potassium and fiber. The DASH study found that elevated blood pressure can be reduced by eating a diet low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol, and rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods. The Portfolio Diet is a plant-based diet, low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, and includes foods that contain cholesterol-lowering components (viscous fiber, soy and other vegetable proteins, plant sterols and certain nuts). Specific foods used in the diet that are sources of cholesterol-lowering components included almonds, soy milk and soy burgers, oat bran cereal and oat bran bread, barley, lentils, beans and plant sterol-enriched margarine. In this study, people on a 2,000-calorie diet ate one ounce of almonds each day as well as other foods believed to have cholesterol-lowering properties, substituting them for other foods with less favorable profiles with respect to cholesterol. Results showed that LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels were reduced by about 30%. This reduction was similar to what was seen with prescription cholesterol-lowering drugs, suggesting that heart disease risk reductions may be the same as well. This study suggests that combining multiple cholesterol-lowering food components or foods, such as nuts, in the same dietary portfolio may increase the effectiveness of diet on reducing the risk of heart disease. References USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at:http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Qualified Health Claims: Letter of Enforcement Discretion—Nuts and Coronary Heart Disease (Docket No 02P-0505). United States Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition 2003. Available at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/qhcnuts2.html. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf. Hu F. Prospective study of major dietary patterns and risk of coronary heart disease in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72:912. Berryman CE et al. Effects of daily almond consumption on cardiometabolic risk and abdominal adiposity in health adults with elevated LDL-C: A randomized controlled trial. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015, doi:10.1161/JAHA.114.00093. Svetkey LP, et al. The DASH diet, sodium intake and blood pressure trial (DASH-Sodium): rationale and design. DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group. J am Diet Assoc. 1999; 8(suppl): S96-104. Jenkins D, et al. Effects of dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods vs. lovastatin on serum lipids and c-reactive protein. JAMA. 2003; 290: 502-510. *Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat & cholesterol and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.Read More
*Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.