Sesame Allergies Are Likely More Widespread Than Previously Thought

Susie Neilson wrote . . . . . . . . .

As an ingredient, sesame is pretty popular— it’s in tahini and sushi; it’s often mixed in granola, sprinkled on bagels or used as a flavoring in an array of dishes. But according to new research, this may be a problem for a substantial number of Americans.

While previous studies suggested sesame allergies affected about .2% of U.S. children and adults, new research published this week in JAMA Network Open estimates the number of sesame-allergic Americans could be as high as .49% — around 1.6 million people.

The study’s findings come at a time when the FDA is considering adding sesame to its list of top allergens that must be noted on food packaging. Last October, then-commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a request for information on the “prevalence and severity” of sesame allergies in the U.S. to aid in its decision.

Luckily, a team of researchers led by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, director of the Science and Outcomes of Allergy and Asthma Research Team at Northwestern Medicine Northwestern Medicine and a physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital, already had data on hand — information from a national survey of food allergies they conducted between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 31, 2016. For this study, researchers distributed surveys on food allergy diagnoses and symptoms to nearly 80,000 different people in over 50,000 households. To meet Gottlieb’s request, all they had to do was pull out their sesame data and give it a look.

What they found: Of the nearly 80,000 people surveyed, about .49% reported having an allergy to sesame, an increase from previous estimates. Of these .49%, about two-thirds (.34% of the U.S. population) either received a diagnosis from a doctor or had allergic reactions that the researchers deemed convincing. Still, the overall findings suggest that sesame allergy is more widespread than previously thought. The researchers say they are confident that over a million people in the U.S. have sesame allergies, based on their data.

Additionally, notes Gupta’s coauthor, epidemiologist Christopher Warren, about 1 in 3 people with convincing sesame allergies alone reported going to emergency rooms — a relatively higher proportion than previously thought. And people with sesame allergies were relatively unlikely to be diagnosed with them, compared with people who have other food allergies.

“It can be trickier to avoid sesame than other major allergens,” he says, because it’s often sprinkled on foods, added to dressings or added into condiments in small quantities. It’s also not always labeled clearly.

Onyinye Iweala, assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina division of rheumatology, allergy and immunology and a member of the UNC Food Allergy Initiative, calls the study “really important.” She notes that its large sample size sets it apart from many previous food allergy studies, and increases her confidence in the findings.

“They were … stringent in their definitions of food allergy,” she says, though these definitions coexisted alongside the classic limitations of survey-based studies — the findings are dependent on people self-reporting their food allergies, and this may lead to under or over-reporting. However, she says the authors properly addressed their study’s own limitations, and the overall finding is strong.

The researchers’ paper comes at a time when food allergies in general are on the rise in kids in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 1999 and 2011, the prevalence of food allergies increased from 3.4% to 5.1%.

Even relative to this rise, however, Iweala says her peers in the food allergy world have been seeing a fair amount of sesame allergy among kids. (She personally has not seen an increase in her clinic, which cares primarily for adults). She says policymakers “should take note of these findings, since they put the prevalence of sesame allergy on par with the prevalence of some tree-nut allergies, like cashew or pistachio.” However, she notes that regulators will have to weigh other factors, like logistics and costs of implementing new food allergy regulations.

Currently, the U.S. FDA requires food manufacturers to list the top eight most common food allergens on packaging: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. The new findings on sesame allergy indicate its prevalence may rival that of previous estimates for some of these top 8 allergens, including some tree nuts.

Thomas Casale, chief medical adviser for operations at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a nonprofit organization focusing on food allergy research, and a professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, agrees the study is important and says policymakers should take note.

Sesame, he says, “absolutely should become the 9th” allergy listed on food packaging, given these findings. Sesame’s absence from packaging could be contributing to a higher-than-usual level of dangerous allergic reactions reported by the study: “If you don’t have any appropriate labeling, it makes it a lot more difficult for people to screen what they’re eating.”

On July 26, Illinois passed a law mandating sesame labeling on its food packaging. But because most packaged food crosses state borders, the impact of this law is yet to be seen, Gupta notes — it could run into challenges, or Illinois could push major food manufacturers towards what it sees as the right direction.

“It’s going to be challenging,” Gupta says. “But hopefully it’s the first step for it to become a national law.”

Source: npr

Lemon and Ginger Chicken Stir-fry


1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 small fresh red chili, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 lb 7 oz chicken breast fillets, sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 oz snow peas, halved lengthways
5 oz baby corn, quartered
2 tablespoons soy sauce
6-1/2 oz bean sprouts, tailed


  1. Combine the lemon rind and juice, chili, garlic, ginger and coriander in a large non-metallic bowl. Add the chicken, toss well, then cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat a wok over high heat, add the sesame seeds and stir-fry for 30 seconds, or until light brown. Remove from the wok.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the wok and swirl to coat. Drain the chicken and stir-fry in batches for 5 Minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the wok.
  4. Heat the remaining oil, then add the snow peas, baby corn and soy sauce, and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the wok. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry for 1 minute.
  5. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top and serve with rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: The Essential Wok Cookbook

Rye Is Healthy, Thanks to an Interplay of Microbes

Eating rye comes with a variety of health benefits. A new study from the University of Eastern Finland now shows that both lactic acid bacteria and gut bacteria contribute to the health benefits of rye. Published in Microbiome, the study used a metabolomics approach to analyse metabolites found in food and the human body.

Rye sourdough used for the baking of rye bread is rich in lactic acid bacteria. In addition to fermenting the dough, these bacteria also modify bioactive compounds found in rye. They produce branched-chain amino acids and amino acid-containing small peptides, which are known to have an impact on insulin metabolism, among other things.

Many of the compounds found in rye are processed by gut bacteria before getting absorbed into the body. The study found that gut microbes and microbes found in sourdough produce compounds that are partially the same. However, gut microbes also produce derivatives of trimethylglycine, also known as betaine, contained in rye. An earlier study by the research group has shown that at least one of these derivatives reduces the need for oxygen in heart muscle cells, which may protect the heart from ischemia or possibly even enhance its performance. The findings can explain some of the health benefits of rye, including better blood sugar levels and a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The study used metabolomics as the primary method to carry out an extensive analysis of metabolites found in food and the human body. The effects of gut microbes were studied in mice and in an in vitro gastrointestinal model, mimicking the function of the human gut. Using these two models, the researchers were able to eliminate naturally occurring differences in the gut microbiome between different individuals, making it easier to detect metabolites actually originating from rye.

Rye can be traced back to what is now known as present-day eastern Turkey, from where it has spread to many cuisines across the world. In Finland, for example, rye has been consumed for thousands of years, and it was recently selected as the country’s national food.

Although the health benefits of rye are long known, the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. For instance, the so-called Rye Factor refers to the lower insulin response caused by rye than, for example, wheat bread. Eating rye makes blood sugar levels fall slower, which leads to beneficial effects on the health – for a reason that remains unknown.

A significant factor contributing to the health benefits of rye are its bioactive compounds, or phytochemicals, which serve as antioxidants. In addition, gut microbes seem to play an important role in turning these compounds into a format that can be easily absorbed by the body, making it possible for them to have a greater effect.

“The major role played by gut microbes in human health has become more and more evident over the past decades, and this is why gut microbes should be taken very good care of. It’s a good idea to avoid unnecessary antibiotics and feed gut microbes with optimal food – such as rye,” Researcher Ville Koistinen from the University of Eastern Finland notes.

Source: University of Eastern Finland

What Is the Low FODMAP Diet?

Kristi King wrote . . . . . . . . .

Like any eating style that makes the news, the low FODMAP diet has generated quite a buzz. This eating plan was originally developed to help manage the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. But wait, what exactly is a FODMAP? Should you be following this diet?

What Is a FODMAP?

FODMAP is an acronym for:







These short-chain carbohydrates are found naturally in many of the foods we eat. These particular types of carbohydrates share three important characteristics: they may be poorly absorbed in the intestine, draw extra water into the intestine and are rapidly fermented by bacteria in the gut. Depending on the quantity consumed and an individual’s tolerance, FODMAPs can lead to increased gassiness, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea. FODMAPs are not inherently bad and are found in a variety of very nutritious foods.

Consult a medical professional to rule out celiac disease, cancer and food allergies or intolerances, prior to starting any new diet – especially if you’re experiencing stomach pain or intestinal problems. If a FODMAP diet is prescribed, working with a registered dietitian nutritionist is important to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need.

Four Types of FODMAPs


There are two different groups of oligosaccharides: fructans and galactans. Fructans are found in wheat products, onions, garlic, artichokes and inulin. Galactans are found in lentils, chickpeas, broccoli, beans, Brussels sprouts and soy-based products.


The most commonly known disaccharide is lactose, which naturally occurs in milk and some dairy products and requires lactase, a digestive enzyme, for absorption. Milk, yogurt, soft cheeses, ice cream and puddings are all disaccharides containing lactose.


Fructose is a monosaccharide found in fruits. Fructose absorption is enhanced when it is combined with sources of glucose, another type of sugar. Therefore, when it comes to FODMAPs, not all fruits are equal. Those containing equal amounts of fructose and glucose may be more easily tolerated. Some examples of higher-fructose containing foods that may cause gastrointestinal symptoms include (but is not limited to) agave, honey, mangos, watermelon, sugar snap peas and high fructose corn syrup.


Polyols are sugar alcohols found in some stone fruits (such as cherries and nectarines), apples and pears; in vegetables such as mushrooms and cauliflower; and in some sugar substitutes containing xylitol or sorbitol.

How the Low FODMAP Diet May Work

This diet starts with a low FODMAP period, usually ranging from six to eight weeks. Then, under a medical professional’s observation, a patient will gradually reintroduce certain FODMAP containing foods. During the reintroduction period, it is vital to keep track of signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal distress in order to help identify food offenders.

Reintroduction is important because over-restriction can cause harm too. Cutting too many fruits, vegetables, plant-based proteins and dairy foods from the diet can lead to increased risk of deficiencies in nutrients such as fiber, minerals such as calcium, protein (for vegetarians or vegans) and vitamins A, C and D. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help manage the reintroduction phase by developing an eating plan that meets an individual’s nutrient needs. Remember, this is a low FODMAP diet, not a no FODMAP diet; it is a highly individualized therapy that was designed to help manage symptoms, not to cure them completely.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Keto Diet May Help Control Type 2 Diabetes

Serena Gordon wrote . . . . . . . . .

The keto diet has plenty of weight-loss devotees who swear by the high fat, low-carb plan. Now, new research from India suggests it may benefit people with type 2 diabetes.

The study team found that people following a ketogenic diet for three months saw significant improvement in their blood sugar control.

“A five to 10% carbohydrate diet over three months led to a remarkable reduction in hemoglobin A1c levels,” said study author Dr. Angati Kanchana Lakshmi Prasana. Kanchana is a consultant biochemist at CARE Hospitals in Visakhpatnam, India.

Hemoglobin A1c is a blood test that estimates average blood sugar control over the past two to three months. In general, people with diabetes are advised to have an A1c level of 7% or lower.

It’s still up for debate whether it’s this specific diet that causes improvement, eating fewer carbohydrates or simply the fact that people lose weight on the diet.

Dr. Genevieve Lama is an endocrinologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley in New York. She said that when people lose weight, their blood sugar levels go down. And it doesn’t take a huge weight loss to make a difference. She said losing just 5% of your weight has an impact on blood sugar levels.

Plus, a low-carbohydrate diet is known to reduce blood sugar levels, she said.

During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars. The hormone insulin allows the body’s cells to use this sugar for fuel.

In type 2 diabetes, however, the cells aren’t as sensitive to insulin. That means more insulin is needed to do the same job. But sometimes the body can’t keep up. If that happens, blood sugar levels rise.

Certain foods — such as processed simple carbohydrates like white bread, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages — quickly raise blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association. That’s why a diet that limits these foods can help manage blood sugar levels.

The ketogenic (keto) diet was originally designed as a treatment for people with the seizure disorder epilepsy. It typically allows 50 grams of carbohydrate or less a day, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

On a keto diet, people often don’t have grains, breads or cereals. Often, even fruits and vegetables are restricted. The diet requires a big change in lifestyle.

The latest study recruited 130 people with type 2 diabetes to follow a ketogenic diet for 12 weeks. There was no control group for comparison.

Study volunteers were between 35 and 60 years old. About one-third were female.

Average weight loss was between 15 and 22 pounds. Before the diet, the study volunteers were slightly overweight. Afterwards, they fell in the normal weight category, on average.

The diet was very limited, with a maximum of 20 grams of carbohydrates a day, Kanchana said. (For reference, one slice of bread is 15 grams and a cup of broccoli has 6 grams of carbs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.)

Typically, the Indian diet is carb-laden, with around 300 to 400 grams of carbohydrate daily, Kanchana said. In some areas of India, people consume a lot of wheat products. In others, the diet contains more rice products.

The study diet contained fats like coconut oil and butter, animal products like chicken, eggs, lamb and pork, dairy products, green leafy vegetables and other green vegetables. The diet avoided root vegetables like potatoes and carrots, Kanchana said.

Daily calorie counts were about 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day.

The average hemoglobin A1C dropped from 7.8% to 6.4% after three months on the diet. Mild constipation was the only adverse effect.

However, more than 10% of the study participants (15 people) dropped out of the study. Kanchana said culturally it was difficult for some people to maintain the carbohydrate restrictions. Economic reasons may have prompted others to stop. It’s more expensive to purchase healthy fats and animal products than processed carbohydrates, she noted.

There is also concern that a diet high in fat and animal products might increase the risk of heart disease. Kanchana said the long-term effects of the diet need to be studied.

Diabetes doctor Lama said she thinks this diet would be difficult to maintain for a long time because it’s so restrictive. And she has concerns about the high fat in the diet, as well as the loss of certain healthy carbohydrates.

“I generally tell my patients to eat low carb, but not no carb. And to get a feel for what they think they can maintain as their lifestyle. If you can’t maintain it, it really just makes you feel defeated. It’s more realistic to lose weight gradually and keep it off,” she said.

She recommends keeping a food log before you see a dietitian, so you can work with the dietitian and come up with a healthy eating plan that has lots of foods you enjoy.

The study was to be presented Monday at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. Findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’re published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Source: HealthDay

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