Sunday, July 6, 2008

Insights from Mike Myers and Hugh Sampson

Fascinating pair of interviews in the June 18th broadcast of NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where she spoke with Mike Myers (voice of Shrek, among other things) and Dr. Hugh Sampson, President of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (Here's a direct link to the audio file)

Too busy to listen to it? Here are the highlights:

Mike Myers

...on the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s

MM: "The sexual revolution didn't end because of a sexual counterrevolution, I don't think the right had anything to do with it -- the moral right, or whatever you want to call them. I think what happens is that, that kind of swinging is an unsustainable lifestyle -- I think when people... cheat, it hurts their feelings. You know what I mean?"

TG: "Mmm hmm. Yes."

MM: "You know what I'm saying."

TG: (knowingly) "Yes."

MM: "I think that kind of stuff hurts, there's a hangover, there's an aftertaste, there's a price to be paid. So true love triumphs over lust."
(He then adds "that's the message of Austin Powers", which I find odd, but I never saw the movie so what do I know...)

I guess I just didn't expect anyone in Hollywood to believe that.

Dr. Hugh Sampson

... on the rise of food allergies in this country

You really need to listen to this one. Since I'm not a doctor, I can't even really speak intelligently to medical issues like these. Dr. Sampson is the President of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, and his interview starts at 28:55 into the program.

Still here? Okay fine, I'll give you my summary of what he said:

  • After years of having physicians advise people to delay feeding peanuts and other potentially allergenic foods to kids, we'd expect the number of people suffering from food allergies in the developed world to start dropping -- but it hasn't, it's rising!

  • So now it appears that food allergies are *not* all genetic -- *we're* doing this!

  • Some scientists believe we're misprogramming our immune systems. One theory, called "hygene hypothesis", postulates that the immune system gets programmed by bacteria that gets on our skin and into our gastrointestinal tract shortly after birth. If that's true, now that we've gotten so effective at eliminating bacteria from everything, we've killed off the bacteria that would otherwise "program" our systems with which things to be sensitive to -- and which not. [This topic sounds very familiar... - B]

  • Peanut allergy rates in Canada, UK, US, Australia are high -- China, on the other hand, reportedly eats roughly the same amount of peanuts but has almost no peanut allergies; researchers think this may be due to the above, or possible the way we prepare our peanuts (dry-roasted, causing a "mallard reaction", instead of boiled).

  • Another example, peanut allergy rates of children in Israel are 1/10 that of children in Hebrew school in London -- possibly due to a food used for weaning children called "bamba", which contains peanuts.

  • Some experts are thinking that we may need to expose kids to peanuts very early or through the mother instead of the previous recommendation that we delay introduction. Dr. Sampson now recommends that physicians tell mothers that they don't have enough data to support making a recommendation on how/when to introduce food types to very young children -- and that the mothers should do what they feel is right, and (wisely so) to not feel guilty about the outcome.

  • What are the 8 food products most responsible for food allergies? milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut, various tree nuts, fish, shellfish

  • How much of a peanut can cause an allergic reaction in someone with the allergy? They're not sure, so they err on the safe side and often over-label products, excluding lots more food items from the diets of people with those allergies.

  • Another thing they're looking into is "delayed maturation" of the fructase enzyme in some children; apparently lactase breaks down milk products, and fructase breaks down sugars in fruits and vegetables. If a child has this condition, they'll get severe cramping and diarrea when eating certain fruits and veggies.

Part of me thinks the end result will be that expectant mothers will be told to follow the Word of Wisdom and just live normally otherwise. I'm stunned how often doing what's natural to children seems to end up being a generally healthy practice for them (e.g. eating dirt, not washing hands, etc.).

Also, I really enjoyed listening to this doctor because he explained why he believes what he does, and gave me a sense of how firm those beliefs are, and which ones are "softer". It bothers me that often our doctors take these "maybe"/"sometimes"/"looks like" findings, many of which are conflicting, and turn them into "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" -- but which often end up wrong!

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