In October, as the weather turns and the darkness falls, I’m asking myself some big questions. What should we do about antibiotic resistance? When should I give my child peanut butter? And is my activity tracker to blame for my declining fitness levels?

 

Fit bit or bit fat?

When I reach my activity goal on my wearable activity monitor I reward myself with an extra scoop of ice cream and a more generous squeeze of chocolate sauce. Is this why a new study found that one of these devices actually made people lose less weight than if they monitored their diet and activity through a website? The study looked at the effect of wearable activity monitors as part of a broader weight loss intervention so we can’t draw too many conclusions from it. But it does make you stop and think. Do these much hyped devices actually help people to get active and lose weight? There’s a lot of money to be made from so called mHealth, but as discussed on last month’s blog we need more research to tell us what works and what doesn’t.

 

Fancy eggs and nuts for dinner?

Fear of developing allergies can lead parents to avoid giving their children certain foods like eggs, nuts, dairy and gluten. However, more evidence has been emerging that early exposure to common food allergens actually helps to prevent allergies.

Last month a landmark publication has gathered together all the latest evidence on food allergens in children. Here’s what it says:

  • Early egg introduction (aged 4-6 months) reduces cases of egg allergy by nearly a half (the evidence for this conclusion was ranked as of ‘moderate certainty’).
  • Early peanut introduction (from 4-12 months) reduces peanut allergy by nearly two thirds. Put another way about 18 fewer children would develop peanut allergy per 1000 children if regularly given peanut containing foods at this age (this conclusion was also made with moderate certainty).
  • Early introduction of gluten isn’t association with coeliac disease risk (this was highly certain, according to the authors).
  • Timing of allergenic food introduction isn’t associated with things like asthma, wheeze, hayfever, type 1 diabetes or thyroid problems (also highly certain evidence).

As you can see from the levels of certainty given it’s often hard to say for sure when it comes to applying research studies to real life. For now I suppose you could take these findings with a pinch of salt – or ground nuts, or milk powder.

 

Are you anti or probiotics?

The more we use antibiotics, the faster our demise. In a post-antibiotic world people will die from infections that are currently easy to treat; routine surgery for hips and knees will be the last resort of the brave or foolish as super-infections become impossible to prevent.

With experts trying to encourage doctors to prescribe fewer antibiotics it’s always a little inconvenient when new research suggests we should be prescribing them more. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that giving the antibiotic azithromycin to all women having a caesarian section significantly reduces complication rates. If the findings from this paper are brought into everyday practice and all women having a caesarian are offered azithromycin, we would give about 160,000 more doses of antibiotics each year. Great for the 1% who will avoid an infection, but at what cost for future generations?