In breezing through The New York Times, a few health headlines from the past month caught my eye.

Allergies connected to dishwashers?

A study published in the journal Pediatrics shows a correlation between allergy prevalence and dishwasher use.

Washing by hand, the researchers say, could be better.

As always, check the readers’ comments which proved to be a mixed bag. Some who grew up in homes where Mum washed the dishes by hand still had allergies. Some who grew up with dishwashers were allergy-free.

SpouseMouse and I did not grow up with dishwashers in our parental households nor do we have one now. Neither of us has allergies, but who knows?

Possible things to check out with regard to dishwashers — thanks, NYT readers — are filters which need to be replaced, too much detergent and film on plates or glasses. Any one of these, or a combination thereof, might trigger allergies or skin conditions.

Feed peanut butter to infants?

Speaking of allergies, should mothers feed their infants small amounts of peanut butter in order to prevent a possible nut intolerance?

An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine says they should. Dr. Rebecca S. Gruchalla of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Dr. Hugh A. Sampson of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City point to a study done in London in 2008 among Israeli and British Jewish infants. The Israeli children ended up with fewer cases of peanut allergies because their mothers fed them small amounts of a local peanut product when they were only a few months old.

A more recent study based on this looked at infant reactions to peanut protein. Some mothers were told to give their infants a peanut product and other mothers were told to avoid it. The children were tested weekly for an allergic response.

Of those consuming a prescribed peanut product, only 10.6% developed an allergy by the age of five. By contrast, 35.3% of children not eating the peanut product were allergic to it.

However, as ever, this is not intended as being a conclusive debate on the matter. More research needs to be done.

NYT readers debated the matter heatedly.

Parents should check with their paediatrician first. However, a small amount of peanut butter mixed in now and then with appropriate baby food might accustom the body to handling it. It won’t work for every baby, but a consultation with the doctor and an allergy test beforehand will confirm if this is the right way forward.

Older generations never had nut allergies. I’d never heard of such a thing until the 1990s. Why is this now such an increasingly common disorder?

Should athletes turn to a high-fat instead of a high-carb diet?

This story is about the ketogenic diet, which my regular readers over the past ten months will recognise from my posts on the subject.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, many athletes were still eating plenty of steak and eggs to build muscle and stamina. That changed during the 1980s. Today, pasta and rice are daily staples.

However, new advice from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggests that athletes should also be consuming a certain portion of fatty foods for their metabolism.

Professor Jeff Volek of Ohio State University in Columbus is a co-author of the paper in question. Anyone who is following a ketogenic eating plan will recognise his name as one of the diet’s biggest supporters.

In the opposing corner is Louise Burke, the head of sports nutrition at the Australian Sports Commission. She says there is no proof that a high-fat diet is better than a carbohydrate-based one.

However, both agree that there is no firm definition of a high-fat, low-carb diet.

In reality — and what the article doesn’t say — is that this will vary amongst individuals. Those who are in a normal weight range will need a closer balance between fat and protein whilst severely restricting carbs. Those who are overweight to obese will need much more fat than protein whilst also keeping carbs to 10 – 15g a day.

Clicking on my ketogenic diet link reveals the physical and mental benefits as well as the resources where one can go to calculate specific daily macros — gram ratios — for fat, protein and carbohydrate.

My complaints with the article are twofold. First, it says that ketogenic followers experience days or weeks of sluggishness when adapting. That happens only with inadequate salt and water intake. The condition is known as ‘keto flu’ and can be potentially dangerous. The remedy from Day 1 is more salt (and possibly potassium) on a daily basis, possibly 1.5 to 2x what one was consuming previously. Cups of bouillon are helpful. With regard to water, even a sedentary person on this eating plan must drink one litre per day. Athletes will probably need around three to four litres a day.

I never had keto flu nor has SpouseMouse. My year’s anniversary is coming up in April. SpouseMouse has been on the eating plan for six months.

Secondly, the reporter says that the food is boring. Not at all. In fact, it is the most fun anyone can have with food: all the tastiest things, including fatty meats, are allowed. Nearly everyone also ends up craving more vegetables and salads, too. How can that be a bad thing?

My suggestion is to copy Italian and Indian restaurants by making one basic sauce — cream-based, in my case — and varying it according to vegetable or protein (especially fish). We have creamy leeks, courgettes, onions and spinach nearly every week. With fatty steak, I sauté onions and mushrooms in butter and animal fat (goose, beef dripping or lard). We eat poached eggs in hollandaise sauce without a worry.  Bread, potatoes, pasta — who needs it? We’re quite satisfied — and keto-adapted.

It seems our media do not wish to divert too much from the received Ancel Keys dietary advice dating from the 1950s.

Yes, there are parts of the world where populations do rely heavily on carbohydrates. However, they are surviving on a subsistence diet and working strenuously during the day. Most Westerners do not fit that category. Most of us are sedentary. Even athletes can balance out their diets quite comfortably.

With any of these headline stories, concerned readers should check with their doctors first. This post is not intended as medical advice.

Advertisements