It’s an old peanut: to avoid food allergies, you must avoid eating peanuts for as long as possible. At least that’s what the traditional medical science recommends.

But new research casts doubt on government health recommendations.

The study, published in the November issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, shows that children who avoided peanut in infancy and early childhood were 10 times as likely to develop peanut allergy as those who were exposed to peanuts.

Researchers measured the incidence of peanut allergy in 8,600 Jewish school-age children in the United Kingdom and Israel.

Prevalence of peanut allergy in the United Kingdom was estimated at 1.85 percent, versus 0.17 percent in Israel.

At 9 months of age, 69 percent of Israeli children were eating peanuts, compared to 10 percent of those in the U.K.

Dietary guidelines in the United Kingdom, Australia and – until earlier this year – the United States advise avoidance of peanut consumption during pregnancy, breastfeeding and infancy.

“The most obvious difference in the diet of infants in both populations occurs in the introduction of peanut,” lead author George Du Toit, MD, FAAAAI, wrote in the article.

While researchers suggest these recommendations could be behind the increase in peanut allergy in these countries, they cautioned that further evidence is needed before those guidelines should be changed.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) cautions that although the results are promising, they shouldn’t translate to changes in treatment just yet.

 “While this study’s findings provide optimism for prevention of peanut allergy in the future, randomized, controlled trials are needed to verify that early introduction of peanut is indeed effective,” said Jacqueline A. Pongracic, MD, FAAAAI, vice chair of the AAAAI Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee.

Peanut allergy affects an estimated 3 million Americans, according to the AAAAI. It is one of the most common triggers of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction.

The incidence of peanut allergy has been on the rise in the United States, doubling in the five-year period from 1997-2002.

An allergist/immunologist is the best-qualified medical professional to diagnose and treat food allergies and other allergic diseases.


If you needed yet another reason to breastfeed, here you go: apparently, breastfeeding enhances baby’s emotional and intellectual development.

Scientists found that children who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from behavioral or mental health issues than those who are not breastfed.

Using 2003 National Survey of Children’s Health data, researchers found that parents of breastfed children were less likely to report concern for the child’s behavior.

Breastfed children were less likely to have been diagnosed by a health professional with behavioral  problems and were less likely to have received mental health care.

Additionally, parents of breastfed children were less likely to report concern about the child’s ability to learn.

“These findings support current evidence that breastfeeding enhances childhood intellectual ability and… protects against psychiatric illness and behavioral problems,” said Katherine Hobbs Knutson, MD, lead researcher on the study.

The study was presented at the American Public Health Association’s 136th Annual Meeting & Exposition in San Diego.

Shiloh Jolie-Pitt and her lovey








If your baby loves something, it’s better to cringe, love, and allow.

Angelina Jolie is one smart mom. I know she has a flock of nannies to take care of her little ones (boy, how I hate the word “brood” that media took to characterize Jolie-Pitt family! They are children! Sons and daughters. Immensely loved ones. Not brood. Ugh.) but still – each of her babes is so happy and well taken care of, only like mommy can do, and no one else. Good job!

Shiloh was born only a few months ahead of my little bundle of joy, and some people comment they actually look alike, and I flourish from pride (neither me nor my hubby are nearly as pretty as Angie or Brad), still, no wonder I can’t help but compare. How fun, we seem to share the taste for low-key practical clothes for our kids (mine are mostly hand-me-downs, too, with occasional eBay purchase or a sale bargain from GAP), we carry them on the same hip, and we let them cling to their security objects.

Angelina Jolie’s choice for Shiloh is a traditional security blanket. Shiloh is rarely seen without her beloved Lovie by SwaddleDesigns. Shiloh has been photographed with green, pink, gray, and fuscia (bright pink) Lovies all around the world. 

And there’s good reason to it. Pediatricians recommend that a young child six months and older be given a security object. SwaddleDesigns’ Baby Lovie is a super soft security blankie with satin trim – perfect for little, delicate fingers to play with and feel.

Lovies (loveys) come in all shapes and textures. Our die-hard lovey is a polar bear by Hallmark. I bought it when I was 8 months pregnant. Ruled by weepy hormones, I bought that sad little bear that was sold on 90 percent sale after a Christmas gift mania in a post office. I sensed that my little one will love him. And she did. She never parted with him for a sec, clinging to him when she was as little one week old. Unfortunately, the bear was a very rare, limited edition, so my hubby and I now scout eBay looking for lookalikes of that wretched bear in case it shrinks one day in a washing machine while we distract our own little lovey from her precious aa-mikkey-aa.

Children who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from behavioral or mental health issues than those who are not breastfed, according to new research.

The study, which was presented at the American Public Health Association’s 136th Annual Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, looked at whether breastfeeding is associated with decreased behavioral problems and psychiatric illness during childhood.

Parents of breastfed children were less likely to report concern for the child’s behavior, it appears.

Breastfed children were less likely to have been diagnosed by a health professional with behavioral or conduct problems and were less likely to have received mental health care.

Additionally, parents of breastfed children were less likely to report concern about the child’s ability to learn.

“These findings support current evidence that breastfeeding enhances childhood intellectual ability while providing new evidence that breastfeeding may contribute to childhood emotional development and protect against psychiatric illness and behavioral problems,” said Katherine Hobbs Knutson, MD, lead researcher on the study.

The study used 2003 National Survey of Children’s Health data from 102,353 interviews of parents and guardians on the health of their children.

Doctors need not go straight to Caesarean section when delivering twins, but can start with vaginal delivery of the first twin in many cases, researchers have found in a study led by UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Should the second-born twin turn out to require a Caesarean section, there is a slightly higher risk of infection for the baby and the mother, but that is easily treated and the risk of more serious complications for the second twin is not increased, the researchers found.

“It keeps the options open for women and providers who are motivated for vaginal delivery,” said Dr. James Alexander, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern and lead author of the two-year study, which appears in the October issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Although such “combined” delivery is relatively rare, there have been no large-scale studies to gauge how the mothers and babies fared after the procedure, Dr. Alexander said.

The UT Southwestern researchers are members of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network, a subset of the National Institutes of Health that comprises 14 university-based clinical centers and a data coordinating center.

They compared deliveries of 1,028 women at 13 network locations from 1999 to 2000, using data collected from a registry of information maintained by the group. This made the study the largest to address the question of combined-delivery safety, Dr. Alexander said.

All of the women in the study went through a period of labor. Ultimately, 849 had Caesarean sections of both twins, while 179 had a combined delivery of the first twin vaginally and the second by Caesarean section, usually because of a non-reassuring fetal heart rate or a poor position for delivery.

Four percent of women who had combined delivery developed chorioamnionitis, an infection involving the uterus, while 13 percent developed endometritis, an infection of the lining of the uterus.

In contrast, 6 percent of the women who had Caesarean section of both twins developed chorioamnionitis, while 9 percent developed endometritis.

Dr. Alexander said the differences in infection rates were not statistically significant after accounting for the mothers’ ages, length of pregnancy and characteristics of the labor, such as whether labor was induced or an antibiotic was used, and the time from onset of labor to delivery.

There were roughly equal rates of injury, seizures, low Apgar scores and other factors to the babies in both types of deliveries, showing that overall health was the same. The difference in rates of serious infection was not statistically significant, although the second-born twins from a combined delivery showed a slightly higher rate (9 percent versus 5 percent) than sets of twins being delivered by Caesarean section.

Hmm… with twins gene running in my DNA, and me planning the second baby any time the financial crisis permits, I would rather push my eyes out of my sockets than expose my little ones to a hyper-dose of narcotics… Especially when my risk seems to be all the same. Don’t you think? I survived my first birth on epidural but Caesarean is way much more serious. This new research sounds optimistic. Please share your thoughts!

Thousands of toys and children’s costume jewellery items were recalled in Toronto, after Toronto Star investigation found they contained extremely high levels of lead. In some cases, lead levels exceeded legal limits 450 times.

Lead was found in about one in every four products bought at 18 retailers in the Greater Toronto Area.

Most of the toys were made in China.

For example, a scrapbook charm sold at Dollarama was so poisonous Health Canada determined a child could die from swallowing the penny-sized bauble. “Super Dooper Charms” jewellery-making kit was recalled by the government in July 2008 but was sold in stores and online nevertheless.

Another lead-contaminated item was a baby pacifier that was sold at Everything For a Dollar in Scarborough. Who knows how many babies were sucking on lead dummies for months!

A Hannah Montana bracelet bought at Wal-Mart was loaded with lead. Toronto Star tested the bracelet’s rhinestones using two high-tech methods and found lead at 445 times the legal limit.

Toxic amounts of lead were found in “Lead Free” jewellery kits, cuddly stuffed animal dressed as a Mountie, and thousands other toys.

More than 900 of the lead-containing baby items had been distributed nationwide since January 2006.

Health Minister Tony Clement called the Star’s findings “deeply disturbing” and said enforcement of leaded products is not good enough.

Experts say sucking on or mouthing a lead-laced toy can cause lead poisoning. Its symptoms, such as irritability, a drop in IQ and poor school performance, could easily be confused with other ailments.

Repeatedly sucking on or swallowing heavily leaded items can bring on a range of symptoms, from prolonged vomiting, diarrhea and cramping to possible death.

Here’s a part of the list of recalled products, as published by

• An orange mini hockey stick with “Canada” painted on the shaft in black letters. The black paint contained 10 times the legal limit for lead. Health Canada said that since April, 3,240 of the sticks had been distributed to retailers nationwide.

• A jewellery kit bought at west-end toy store Animal Crackers. The kit, billed as “Lead Free,” contained a pendant that tested at nearly double the legal limit for lead in children’s jewellery. The necklace clasp tested at 150 times the limit. Health Canada says 5,940 of the kits have been sold across the country since September 2004.

• A pewter scrapbook charm sold at Dollarama that tested at 77 per cent lead. If swallowed, the penny-sized accessory – which has “laugh” engraved on one side – could be fatal. Health Canada said that 11,776 of the items hit Dollarama shelves starting in May 2007.

• A pacifier from the My Baby brand sold in Everything For a Dollar. The orange plastic mouthguard of the pacifier contained more than 10 times the proposed legal limit of lead. Health Canada announced that as a precautionary measure, importer OPC is extending the recall to include My Baby pacifiers with guards of all colours. About 10,000 of the pacifiers were sold from April 2007 to October 2008.

And current Canadian legislation does nothing to protect the children from lead.

Recalls are voluntary and it is up to the offending companies and parents to keep the dangerous items from children.

Health Canada has not punished a company for selling, importing or manufacturing dangerous children’s products in more than a decade.

As a Canadian expat, I am furious. There’s tolerance, frugality, and diversity, and there’s health and safety. Sometimes such things do not coexist.   

[This post has been previously published on Toronto Fashion Monitor. I am a freelance contributor to TFM. ]

We all know that breastfeeding helps build stronger, more resilient babies – and finally science came up with a clear answer how exactly breastfeeding supports baby’s immune system.

 A Harvard-Stanford research team has identified a molecule that is key to mothers’ ability to pass along immunity to intestinal infections to their babies through breast milk.

Apparently, there’s amazing change that takes place in a mother’s body when she begins producing breast milk. For years before her pregnancy, cells that produce antibodies against intestinal infections travel around her circulatory system as if it were a highway and regularly take an “off-ramp” to her intestine. There they stand ready to defend against infections such as cholera or rotavirus. But once she begins lactating, some of these same antibody-producing cells suddenly begin taking a different “off-ramp,” so to speak, that leads to the mammary glands.

That way, when her baby nurses, the antibodies go straight to his intestine and offer protection while he builds up his own immunity.

This is why previous studies have shown that formula-fed infants have twice the incidence of diarrheal illness as breast-fed infants.

Until now, scientists did not know how the mother’s body signaled the antibody-producing cells to take the different off-ramp. The new study identifies the molecule that gives them the green light.

“Everybody hears that breastfeeding is good for the baby,” said Eric Wilson, the Brigham Young University microbiologist who is the lead author on the study. “But why is it good? One of the reasons is that mothers’ milk carries protective antibodies which shield the newborn from infection, and this study demonstrates the molecular mechanisms used by the mother’s body to get these antibody-producing cells where they need to be.”

Understanding the role of the molecule, called CCR10, also has implications for potential future efforts to help mothers better protect their infants.

“This tells us that this molecule is extremely important, so if we want to design a vaccine for the mother so she could effectively pass protective antibodies to the child, it would be absolutely essential to induce high levels of CCR10,” said Wilson.