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Skepchick Quickies 3.12

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6 Comments

  1. About the paleodiet thing, the majority of the human race has had 500 years or less to adapt to peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers (Capsicum as opposed to Piperaceae), corn (maize), strawberries, chocolate, vanilla, and who knows what other new world plants. Turkey too, though I have never heard of anyone having an adverse reaction to turkey meat. I would hazard a guess that that is not enough time, hence the problems with peanut allergies.

    How long have Europeans had to get used to soybeans, I wonder?

    • I keep hearing anecdotes of people who did eat feral and home grown peanuts in other countries with no problems but once in North America where only commercially grown peanuts are available would develop a peanut allergy. It might be that the modern commercial breeds just have a higher occurrence of the allergen creating gene than older wilder ones.
      I know science has figured out how to get rid of the allergen in the prunus family so there’s no reason why we can’t breed an allergen free peanut.

    • Food allergies are caused by an immune system over-response to particular proteins found in foods. The foods you mention may be New World plants but some may well have Old World counterparts in terms of the allergenic proteins they contain, so it’s not just a case of 500 years (which also takes no account of the likelihood of exploration and trade with the New World prior to Columbus’s inadvertent discovery).

      Food allergies are currently believed to be significantly influenced by epigenetic as well as genetic and environmental factors. Historically, food allergies would have been misdiagnosed, either as a cause of distaste, sickness or death – e.g. as contamination or some other illness or simply not liking the food. It is therefore difficult to determine to what extent the recent dramatic increase in food allergy diagnoses is due to exposure to new foods, increased incidence or improved diagnostics.

  2. Concerning “That may sound sexist”…

    I personally don’t see how anyone could take his statement as anything other than sexual innuendo. His not-pology is frankly ridiculous. That he would say such a thing in a public hearing, let alone anywhere else, shows a deep lack of introspection.

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