Roundup: Sesame Allergy on the Rise; ‘Central Obesity’ in Women; and Top Sleep Disruptors

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August 9, 2019


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Sesame Allergy More Widespread Than Previously Thought, Report Finds

More than 1.5 million U.S. adults and children had a sesame allergy — about five times the previous estimate, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Network Open.

Those study participants included people who were diagnosed with the allergy by a physician, and those who met a criteria set by the researchers. They reviewed data on 78,851 children and adults in the U.S. Based on their findings, the study’s authors estimate that more than 1.5 million people are affected.

Sesame allergy can cause severe reactions, but sesame is often not declared on food product labels, the Northwestern University researchers stated. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is considering whether sesame should be added to the list of food allergens for which mandatory product labeling is required.

Overall, an estimated 32 million Americans have some type of food allergies, the more common associated with nuts and dairy products. But only the top 8 food allergens, including milk, eggs and peanuts, are required on food labels.

“Our study shows sesame allergy is prevalent in the U.S. in both adults and children and can cause severe allergic reactions,” said the study’s lead author Ruchi Gupta, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “It is important to advocate for labeling sesame in packaged food. Sesame is in a lot of foods as hidden ingredients. It is very hard to avoid.”

Researchers found that many individuals who report sesame allergies and experience potentially severe allergic reactions are not obtaining clinical diagnoses of their allergies.

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Some Women with ‘Central Obesity’ are at Higher Risk of Premature Death, Study Says

Women with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more are at a higher risk for obesity-related health issues, including premature death, according to new research published in JAMA Network Open.

And that’s also the case for women with the larger waist size — even if their weight or body mass index (BMI) is within a normal range, researchers found.

Postmenopausal women with excess fat concentrated in their midsection — known as central obesity and referred to as an “apple shape” — were 31 percent more likely to die prematurely, including from cardiovascular disease and obesity-related cancer, the study found.

Women of average weight or who are overweight — but do not have “central obesity” — were not at higher risk. The finding in women with excessive belly fat is comparable to the higher risk faced by women who are categorized as obese based on BMI standards, researchers said.

“Even for women with normal BMI, central obesity can potentially lead to a higher risk of (premature death),” that study’s authors concluded. “This suggests a more nuanced understanding and communication of obesity risk.”

The study looked at data from the Women’s Health Initiative, which monitored the health of more than 156,000 women, between the ages of 50 and 79, from 1993 to 2017.

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Alcohol, Nicotine Disrupt Sleep Patterns More Than Coffee, Study Says

Drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette before bed are more likely to disrupt a good night’s sleep — more so than drinking coffee, a new study finds.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University and Harvard Medical School monitored the consumption of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine among 785 volunteers. They then compared their daily sleep diaries and data from wrist sensors. The study was published in the journal Sleep.

The surprising finding: Nicotine and alcohol disrupted sleep (smoking a cigarette before bedtime deprived participants of 42 minutes in sleep time), but caffeine appeared to have no effect.

“A night with use of nicotine and/or alcohol within four hours of bedtime demonstrated worse sleep continuity than a night without,” states Christine Spadola, Ph.D., of Florida Atlantic University.

The study’s authors conclude that the findings “support the importance of sleep health recommendations that promote the restriction of evening alcohol and nicotine use to improve sleep continuity.”

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