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Food Allergies May Cause Arthritis Attacks

January 25, 1990|JEAN CARPER | Carper is a medical and nutrition writer and the author of 15 books, including "The Food Pharmacy."

If you've heard there's no way diet can bring on arthritis, don't believe it. That idea, once considered quackery, is being overturned by new research.

Certain food allergies can cause flare-ups of arthritis in some people, says Dr. Richard Panush of Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey, who is a leading authority on the subject.

In stringent tests he found that food triggered hypersensitivity, causing delayed inflammatory attacks and arthritic symptoms of joint pain, stiffness and swelling in a few individuals. "Their arthritis was mild or non-existent, except when they ate a certain food," says Dr. Panush. He estimates that about 5% of people with rheumatoid-arthritis have such food allergies.

In one case the arthritic flare-ups came a day or two after eating the offending food and lasted for up to three days. The identified culprit: milk.

At the same time, Panush found no proof for most people's claims that their arthritis was triggered by such foods as red meat, fruit and tomatoes--a member of the nightshade family, long reputed to bring on arthritis.

Cutting down on fatty foods and eating more onions may help save you from heart disease, regardless of blood cholesterol. So says Dr. Victor Gurewich, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

The reason: Fatty foods, especially meat and dairy products high in saturated fat, encourage formation of blood clots. On the other hand, onions, raw or cooked, help rev up the body's mechanisms that discourage blood clots.

Studies now show that blood clots are involved in about 90% of all cases of heart attack. "If you can keep away a blood clot, your chances of escaping a heart attack are greatly improved," says Gurewich. In his studies, the severity of heart disease was due more to blood-clotting factors than to cholesterol levels in the blood.

Gurewich urges all his patients with cardiovascular disease to eat onions. Studies even show that onions can help counteract the detrimental blood-clotting effects of high fat.

Other foods found in studies to help discourage destructive blood-clot factors: fatty fish, garlic, ginger, kelp and Oriental tree-ear (mo-er) mushrooms.

If you want to lose weight, which cereal is more likely to suppress your appetite: Post Toasties, shredded wheat, Bran Chex, All Bran or Fiber One?

The answer is the cereal with the most fiber--Fiber One. In a new study by Dr. Allen S. Levine, at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis, volunteers who ate 2 ounces (two servings) of either Bran Chex, All Bran or Fiber One for breakfast consumed fewer calories at lunch.

The more fiber in the cereal, the greater the effect. Eaters of the highest-fiber cereal, Fiber One, consumed about 200 fewer calories for breakfast and lunch together than eaters of Post Toasties, which has no fiber.

Dropping a couple of hundred calories every day over a long period of time "could result in substantial weight loss," says Levine--about 20 pounds in a year.

It's unclear how fiber dampens appetite, he says, but the high-fiber cereal eaters did not feel as hungry. Also high-fiber cereals have fewer calories. An ounce of All Bran has 70 calories; an ounce of Post Toasties, 110 calories.

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