Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Peanut Allergy Epidemic: What's Causing It and How to Stop It

The Peanut Allergy Epidemic: What's Causing It and How to Stop It
Author: Heather Fraser
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (2011)

Does your work or school have a “no-nut-no-peanut” policy? Allergies to tree nuts, as well as to the botanically unrelated legume known as the peanut, are rampant in modern Western society, with over 4 million cases of peanut allergy currently diagnosed in the United States alone. Why the
 Western community falls victim to this hyper-reactivity while those countries building their cuisine on the backbone of these legumes is the focus of Heather Fraser’s book The Peanut Allergy Epidemic: What's Causing It and How to Stop It.

It needs to be noted before utilizing Epidemic as any sort of authority on peanut allergies that Fraser is not a medical professional in any sense. Rather, the author is a historian by trade, whose child suffered an anaphylactic reaction to peanut butter at the age of thirteen months. Her love of historical details shows strongly in this book, as Fraser spends three full chapters on the subject (only one of which regards the peanut allergy in particular). In fact, the bulk of the first two “parts” of this book are completely removed from the issue splashed across the cover. Fraser covers the history of “mass allergy” and theories behind developing anaphylactic reactions in general long before getting into the “nitty gritty” of the peanut reactions. To be fair, her investigation into this forum, especially it’s impact on children, is fairly detailed, with comparisons of socio-political, economic and clinical factors and a worldwide statistical contrast in the final chapter of the book.

While I’m sure Fraser means well with this publication (the second in her peanut allergy series, which began with The History of the Peanut Allergy Epidemic), it is all too clear that she is on a mother’s one-track mind as to who she blames for her son’s reaction. My main issue with Epidemic is that Fraser incessantly blames the vaccinations given to children for the rise in peanut allergies to the exclusion of any of the other 15 theories she glosses over in Chapter 2. The culprit she cites is the mercury used as a preservative in the serum, as well as the peanut oil that was once used as a carrier for the inert virus. Today, however, the only adjuvant legal for use in the US and Canada is aluminium hydroxide, and discernable mercury traces are only found in the flu shot and Hepatitis B vaccine administered around age 11 – long after anaphylactic allergies make their presence known. Fraser also neglects to mention at all in this book that these severe allergies she is focusing on are all mediated by an antibody class that is determined by genetics and in-utero conditions before birth and generally are not modified by external forces. It also raises the question as to why beef, chicken and egg allergies aren’t equally as prevalent due to the fact that beef extracts are still a large part of vaccine sera and many of the virus cultures are generated on chicken embryos and egg whites.

While I do appreciate the need for an awareness vehicle when it comes to the increase in severe childhood allergies, Epidemic borders on the extremist with respect to the anti-vaccine campaign. I had hoped for a more balanced investigation on the variable causes listed in the index, as the topic is an interesting and ever-popular one, but instead I felt a bit like I was reading a fear-mongering manifesto. Given my own background in holistic nutrition and homeopathy, I was left wondering whether a book written by an alternative health practitioner (not a “common” doctor) would be in a similar style.

For a purely historical reference, The Peanut Allergy Epidemic: What's Causing It and How to Stop It by Heather Fraser is worth a perusal. However, it is not a reliable medical text, nor should it be used as a parent’s sole source of information when choosing whether or not to vaccinate their child. I would not generally recommend this historian’s book to those looking for an answer to their allergy woes.

Available on Amazon

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