Ask your smart phone to detect food allergens in your food.

A hoodie with the University of California, Lo...

Researchers have developed a new device – called iTube – which is able to detect food allergens in food samples. This lightweight attachment to smart phones is recently the lighter, merely two ounces (less than 60 g), portable allergen testing device. The attachment analyzes the allergen concentration levels. The test is also known as colorimetric assay. The iTube platform can test for a variety of allergens, including peanuts, almonds, gluten, eggs, hazelnuts.

Food allergies affect 8 percent of children and 2 percent of adults. Food allergy can be severe, even life-threatening (anaphylaxis).  While laws regulate the labeling of ingredients in packaged foods, cross-contamination can still cause severe allergic reactions. Cross-contamination can occur during processing, manufacturing, and transportation. It is especially difficult to detect the presence of a special allergens in foods at dinner parties or in restaurants.

There are already allergy testing devices on the market but they are complex, bulky equipments, impractical for public settings.

iTube holds a lot of promises for future applications, according to the researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Henry Samuely  School of Engineering and Applied Science.

How does iTube work?

iTube along with a smartphone application that runs the test, uses the cell phone’s built-in camera to convert images into concentration measurements detected in food samples. The test demonstrates the amount of the allergens with the same high level of sensitivity a laboratory would. The results show exactly how many parts per million allergens from e.g. eggs, peanuts, gluten, nuts are in the sample. The test however takes a little while: about 20 minutes to get the results, and the food requires some preparation. The food sample initially needs to be ground up and mixed with hot water and a solvent. After the sample has set for a few minutes, it is mixed in a step-by-step procedure with a series of reactive testing liquids. After about this 20 minute preparation the sample is ready to be measured for allergen concentration through the cell phone’s camera and iTube app. The iTube not only shows whether an allergen is present in the sample but also gives the concentration in parts per million of the allergen.

The UCLA team successfully tested the iTube on different packages of cookies. The results  determined if they had any harmful amounts of peanuts in the sample. Their research was recently published online in the peer-reviewed journal Lab on a Chip.

“We envision that this cell phone-based allergen testing platform could be very valuable, especially for parents, as well as for schools, restaurants, and other public settings,” says Aydogan Ozcan, leader of the research team and a UCLA associate professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering.

The results of the tests can be tagged with time and location as well as can be uploaded directly from the smart phone to the iTube server which could provide  information for other allergy-sufferers around the world. A statistical database of different allergies linked to geographic areas could be useful for future determination of food-related polices researchers said.

Another team of researchers from  Purde University have also processed a new application for travelers suffering from allergies to obtain instant (0.09 seconds) allergen results from food samples without any Internet connection or server. This device is not available yet.

 

How ‘Spicy’ is Your Allergy?!

Shop with spices in Morocco

Allergies to spices affect millions of people around the world, but not everyone might ever know that these are allergies. A lot of sufferers might feel that their digestive system gets upset when they eat certain foods. Sometimes it is difficult to determine that the reason for these conditions are spices.

Allergies to spices like onion, garlic, black pepper are common in the United States, but the most common culprits are found within ethnic groups and diet. Spices known as allergy triggers are also paprika, cinnamon, anise, turmeric, cumin, coriander, vanilla. Spices are usually found in small amounts in food, but it is enough for those who are sensitive to that specific allergen. Spices can make matters worse if they are mixes, e.g. curry. There are several types of curry, each is a different blend of many spices. Several blends contain anywhere from three to 18 spices, and the hotter the spice, the greater the chance for allergy. The Five-Spice blend has seven spices. Allspice has only one. However any spices and herbs can cause allergic reactions any time.

Spices at central market in Agadir (Morocco) F...“I strongly believe that spice allergies are markedly under-diagnosed because of the great difficulty in identifying it.” says Sami Bahna, chief of allergy and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport. “Patients with spice allergy often have to go through extreme measures to avoid the allergen. This can lead to strict dietary avoidance, low quality of life and sometimes malnutrition.”

When we hear about spices we usually think about food, but spices are everywhere. They can be found as hidden ingredients in cosmetic products, such as makeup and body oils, dental products such as toothpaste, spice-scented air fresheners or in decorations such as  cinnamon scented pinecones at Christmas holiday.

Allergies can be triggered by digesting the allergen or by breathing them in or even just by touching them.

It is important to know that many reactions to spices, such as runny nose or sneezing are not always allergic reactions, says Stanley Fineman, president of the allergy college and a physician at the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic. They act by irritating the mucus membrane in the nose.

A true allergic reaction to any food  involves the immune system. Some of the symptoms include hives, swelling of the throat and skin, rash, stomach ache, diarrhea, indigestion, asthma, vomiting itching of the tongue, lips, face. In rare cases severe lowering of the blood pressure, trouble breathing and the risk of unconsciousness or death known as anaphylaxis can occur.

Different food processing can influence the effect of that particular spice. “Boiling, roasting, frying and other forms of applying heat to spices may reduce allergy causing agents, but can also enhance them depending on the spice,” said Dr. Bahna.

spicesSpices are widely used in food and different products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate spice labeling, making it more difficult to identify and avoid them. Therefore close attention to ingredients is absolutely necessary. Approximately 2 percent of food allergies are triggered by spices. However it is underdiagnosed, particularly due to the lack of reliable allergy skin tests or blood tests.

If you have a known spice allergy, you should avoid the allergy trigger spices from your diet. Do your research before you order any food in a restaurant, and read the label before you buy processed food  any kind. If you have any doubt, call the manufacturer for more information.

The best way to be  safe is by  cooking your favorite dishes at home.

Food Allergies Linked to Pesticides

Common food allergies in childrenEnvironmental pollution and the occurence of food allergies in the United States are on the rise. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an increase in food allergies of 18 per cent was seen between 1997 and 2007.

The increased use of pesticides and other chemicals in the environment is associated with a higher prevalence of food allergies according to a study published in the December issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Elina Jerschow, assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York said: “Our research shows that high levels of dichlorophenol-containing pesticides can possibly weaken food tolerance in some people, causing food allergy. ”

What are Dichlorophenols?

Dichlorophenols are widely used as pesticides and for chlorination of water. Researchers have found that people exposed to high levels of dichlorophenols, the chemical added to water to ensure it is free of bugs, tend to be more prone to food allergies. It doesn’t mean that people should stop drinking tap water to avoid dichlorophenols exposure. Even those who opted for bottled water instead of tap water could ingest the pesticide chemical from eating pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables, fruit juices and foods. This chemicals are also commonly found in pesticides used by farmers and consumer insect and weed control products.

How dichlorophenols affect our environment?

Dichlorophenols have a strong antibacterial effect that could affect microflora in the environment. Dichlorophenols are a kind of chlorine that are known to kill bacteria. A new study reported in the December issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology support the hypothesis that high levels of dichlorophenols can alter the population of microbes within the human body, which can affect the way that the body react to food. According to the study urine dichlorophenols level at the 75th percentile and above were associated with the presence of sensitization to foods. Excessive use of dichlorophenols may contribute to the increasing incidence of food allergies in westernized societies.

Jerschow said the research is still too preliminary to suggest that Americans should change  their eating or drinking habits.

Most common food allergens

The egg, milk, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, and wheat make up 90 percent of food allergies. Symptoms can range from mild rash to a life-threatening anaphylaxis. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) recommends everyone with known food allergy to always carry two doses of allergiest prescribed epinephrine. The delay in using epinephrin can lead to death.

Related articles:

Source:

Danger of “antibacterial”

Bio-Tag - Triclosan

An antibacterial chemical, called Triclosan, found in toothpaste and other personal care products may increase the risk of allergy development in children. Triclosan has been used since 1972, but was recently associated with allergies in children.

What is Triclosan?
Triclosan is an antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral agent. Triclosan has been in use for decades in a variety of common household products, including soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, mouthwashes, dish detergents, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, and toys. It is also a component in some pesticides, mattresses, insulation and underlayments used under flooring such as laminate, wood, carpeting in order to stop the growth of bacteria, fungi, and mildew. In the United States, manufacturers of products containing triclosan must indicate it on the label.

How can Triclosan affect our health?
Triclosan can change the bacterial flora in the mouth, on the skin and in the intestines. The change in the delicate balance between beneficial and “bad” bacteria in the body can lead to immune system dysregulation, causing an increased risk of developing allergies (hygiene hypothesis). The researchers found link between the growing incidence of allergies and the increased use of products containing triclosan. The study does not demonstrate that the antibacterial chemicals themselves cause the allergies but instead suggest that they play a significant role in immune system development. Several studies have shown that triclosan may alter hormone regulation in laboratory animals or cause antibiotic resistance.
According to the FDA, triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans, but a number of scientific studies emphasize the need to review the manufacturer’s guidelines on the use of this chemical in consumer products.

About the study
Researchers have found that children with high urinary levels of triclosan have a twofold higher risk of environmental and food allergies. The higher urinary levels of the chemical were associated with increased levels of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody, which is elevated in the blood of people with allergies. According to the study the probability of food and aeroallergen (especially rhinitis) sensitization is significantly higher with increased exposure to triclosan.
Comparison of the Norwegian and U.S. summary of the studies show approximately 50 per cent of the Norwegian children had detectable levels of triclosan in their urine, while 80 per cent of American children had measurable levels. Children from both groups had approximately the same amount of triclosan exposure.
The triclosan study is a collaboration between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo University Hospital and the National Institute of Health Sciences (NIEHS) in the U.S. The study was published online on November 2012 in Allergy, the official journal of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

What is the problem with Triclosan?
Triclosan is linked to inhalation and liver toxicity. Low levels of triclosan may disrupt thyroid function. Due to the uncompleted waste water treatment, the chemical, which is very toxic to aquatic life, ends up in our lakes, rivers and water sources.

How to avoid Triclosan?
There is no evidence that household use of antibacterial products provides benefits over plain soap and water, and the American Medical Association recommends that triclosan not be used in the home, as it may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Watch the label for triclosan (and triclocarban) in personal care products. Read ingredient labels carefully.

Avoid “antibacterial” products.  Triclosan is used in everyday personal care products like toothbrushes, toys, plastic containers, and cutting boards that may be labeled “antibacterial,” or make claims such as “odor-fighting” or “keeps food fresher, longer”.              

Use simple detergents and soaps with short ingredient lists and avoid antibacterial products with triclosan for home use.

Triclosan can be found in these products: soap and dishwashing liquid, towels, mattresses sponges, personal care products, shower curtains, toothbrushes, phones, kitchenware, and plastic food containers, shoes, flooring, and carpets, cutting boards, clothing, fabrics, and toys.

References:

http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/triclosan_fs.htm

http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(11)02347-5/fulltext

Drinking green tea may provide relief for allergy sufferers.

English: Tea of different fermentation: From l...

Although tea drinking has been associated with health benefits since ancient times, only in recent years have its medicinal properties been investigated scientifically.

“Green tea appears to be a promising source for effective anti-allergenic agents,” says Hirofumi Tachibana, the study’s chief investigator and an associate professor of chemistry at KyushuUniversity in Fukuoka, Japan. “If you have allergies, you should consider drinking it.”

Do not confuse green tea with oolong tea or black tea. Oolong tea and black tea are made from the same plant leaves, but they are prepared differently and have different medicinal effects. The longer the tea leaf is fermented, the more caffeine and the less polyphenols in contains. Polyphenols, also referred to as flavanoids, are chemicals that act as antioxidants and help rid of the body of free radicals.  Tea’s health benefits are largely due to its high content of flavonoids . Green tea is not fermented at all. Oolong tea is partially fermented, and black tea is fully fermented.

Green tea contains six primary polyphenols, known as catechins. Catechins according to the latest study are more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells and appear to have other disease-fighting properties.

Researchers in Japan identified a polyphenol in green tea , methylated epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which appears to be the most potent and biologically active antioxidants found in tea. The compound is found in higher concentrations in green tea, the least processed of teas, than in black and oolong variety. EGCG might be able to prevent inflammation and swelling, protect cartilage between the bones, and lessen joint degeneration.. Studies have found an association between consuming green tea and a reduced risk for several cancers, including skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder.  A Chinese study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed a 46%-65% reduction in hypertension risk in regular consumers of oolong or green tea, compared to non-consumers of tea. Drinking green tea may also fight fat.

It now appears that the compound works by blocking the production of histamine and immunoglobulin E (IgE), two compounds in the body that are involved in triggering and sustaining allergic reactions- Tachibana says.

Green tea contains 2% to 4% caffeine. Caffeine is thought to stimulate the nervous system, heart, and muscles by increasing the release of certain chemicals in the brain called “neurotransmitters.”

Although promising against allergies, no one knows how much green tea is needed to have a therapeutic effect or which green tea varieties work best. Researchers are currently looking for additional anti-allergenic compounds in the tea.

Green tea is the second-most consumed beverage in the world, behind water. It is very popular in Japan, and has a growing following in the United States.

The October issue of  Archives of Internal Medicine provides a few tips to get the most out of tea-drinking: Drinking a cup of tea a few times a day to absorb antioxidants and other healthful plant compounds. In green-tea drinking cultures, the usual amount is three cups per day. Allow tea to steep for three to five minutes to bring out its catechins. The best way to get the catechins and other flavonoids in tea is to drink it freshly brewed. Decaffeinated, bottled ready-to-drink tea preparations, and instant teas have less of these compounds. Tea can impede the absorption of iron from fruits and vegetables. Adding lemon or milk or drinking tea between meals will counteract this problem.

Allergy sufferers schould take some precautions:

  • See a doctor for the best treatment options.
  • Avoid allergens that can cause the allergy: dust, pollen, certain foods and chemicals
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Educate yourself about allergy

Green tea also contains alkaloids such as caffeine (although in lower amount than black tea), which give green tea its stimulating properties.

If you are hypersensitive to caffeine or tannin, you may want to consider avoid drinking green tea.

Sun exposure may decrease the risk of Food Allergies, Asthma and Eczema

Sunlight Feed

Sunlight

People living in areas with lower levels of sunlight are more likely to develop food allergies, asthma and aczema than those in areas with plenty of sunshine, according to a new scientific study.

The research was led by Dr. Nick Osborne from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health. He used data from analysis of Australian children and how rates of food allergies, eczema and asthma varied throughout the country. He believes these findings provide us with an important insight into the prevalence of food allergies and eczema, which appear to be on the increase.

Australia is an excellent place for this type of study as it spans nearly 3000 miles from north to south, with a large variation in climate, day length and sun strength. On average children in the south of the country were twice as likely to develop eczema as those in the north. There was also a link between latitude and allergies to peanuts and eggs. The report suggests that exposure to the sun may play a role in rising levels of food allergy and eczema.

Researchers pointed to exposure to sunlight as the cause for the findings. Generally speaking the further south or north from the equator you live the higher the incidence of developing food allergy or eczema.  People who live in sunnier climates – closer to the equator – get more sunshine on a daily basis.

Always, care has to be taken we are not exposed to too much sunlight, increasing the risk of skin cancer- warned Dr.Osborn.

Sunlight is the body’s greatest source for vitamin D. Researchers say that deficiency of vitamin D could be involved in the increase in asthma and allergies. Vitamin D could lower the risk of asthma in children by up to 40 per cent, according to a new report.

The theory is that people due to modern lifestyle spend more time indoors with less sunlight exposure  – travelling in cars rather than walking, for example – as well as the widespread use of sunscreen. These habits have led to the decreased production of vitamin D in the skin of many people.

In fact, by some estimates, around half of the world’s population is vitamin D deficient. For the body to make vitamin D, the skin needs to be exposed to light. At most latitudes, you can get enough vitamin D simply by spending 15 or so minutes in the sunshine everyday without wearing sunscreen; at extreme latitudes, the atmosphere filters more of the UV out and you need longer exposure. Vitamin D supplements are also available.

Sources:

Journal of Allergy and clinical Immunology

Science Daily

http://www.pcmd.ac.uk/news.php?id=310

Meat Allergy linked with Tick Bites

English: The tick Amblyomma americanum (Lone S...

These fall are bringing out more ticks than it was usual before in the Mid South and East Coast area.

A new study suggest a connection between the rise in creepy crawlies, and the increase in a certain allergy to beef and pork.

“Every patient I’ve had with this allergy has had a tick bite. It seems to be related to what is called the Lone star tick”. –said Dr. Tina Merrit of the Allergy Clinic of Northwest Arkansas. They are very common in Arkansas and Missouri, but cases of the freaky allergy are popping up along the East Coast too where areas also abound in Lone star ticks. 90 percent of the meat allergy patients had a history of tick bites.

“We’re in the process of collecting the very tiny amounts of liquid out of a tick mouth and learning how to analyze that. I believe there’s evidence that ticks are causing the allergies. If it’s a tick disease, it might involve fighting ticks. We’re searching for proof,” said  Doctor Jack Lay from the University of Arkansas.

Delayed allergic reaction showed up roughly three to six hours after eating red meat. Symptoms can range from hives to anaphylactic shock. Experts say the six-hour lag between exposure to meat and the allergic reaction complicates things even more. It’s very atypical because most food allergies occur very quickly.

The Lone star tick is a very small tick that can have a white dot on the back and it’s very common in the Mid South area, but is found throughout the eastern, southeastern and south-central states.

All three life stages (larva, nymph, adult) of the lone star tick will feed on humans, and may be quite aggressive. Lone star ticks will also feed readily on other animals, including dogs and cats, and may be brought into the home on pets. The saliva from lone star ticks can be irritating; redness and discomfort at a bite site does not necessarily indicate an infection.

The infection may be hard to diagnose because there’s no rash and the tick and its bite are very tiny. Lab inspection of a blood sample under a microscope is currently the only way to confirm infection.

Tick-borne illness may be prevented :

–         by avoiding tick habitat  Avoid tick habitat like wooded and bushy areas with high grass and  leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails.

–         by using insect repellents containing DEET or permethrin, Use insect repellents that contain 20% or more DEET for protection that lasts up  to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings.

–         by wearing long pants and socks,

–         by performing tick checks and promptly removing ticks after outdoor activity. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.

–         Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.

–         Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.

Be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.

Sources:

http://nwahomepage.com/fulltext?nxd_id=367332
http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/news/health/medical-lone-star-tick-makes-people-allergic-to-red-meat#ixzz271ZWCVYi