Are Peanuts Safe for IBS? Debunking aflatoxin myths.

 In #AskADietitian Videos, Gut Health & IBS

I have had THREE questions this last week on the safety of peanuts – not just from an IBS perspective – but from an overall health perspective.

I understand that there has been some misinformation put out there about the safety of peanuts – specifically in regards to aflatoxin. While aflatoxin (a class of toxic compounds produced by certain types of moulds commonly found on nuts and corn) is a very serious issue – it’s usually only an issue in developing countries due to food storage, agriculture processes, limited access to safe food, and food preparation methods. Yes – exposure to aflatoxin can damage your liver and lead to liver cancer – ESPECIALLY in those with hepatitis – a condition quite common in developing countries. YES. More needs to be done about it. However, this doesn’t mean YOU are at risk here in North America.

Our food system is HIGHLY regulated in Canada (and any developed country). In fact, there is very little chance you would be exposed to even minute (we’re talking ‘parts per billion) levels of aflatoxin in any Canadian food products. I talk about this specifically in the video – and what we need to consider.

GUYS. I get it. We often a) give food more credit than is due and b) assume restriction is the answer to our health problems. The challenge I find is around FOOD FEAR. If people are making food sound like it can KILL you – that’s a red flag. Rarely is nutrition and health simple or black and white. However, it IS clear that our fears around foods, health, and our restrictive eating behaviours negatively influence our microbiome.

We need to consider what, if any level of education a person has when making health claims, and EVEN if they cite articles – we need to consider – was the research done PROPERLY? Was the study interpreted properly? Were confounding factors accounted for? Was there a placebo group? was it a randomized control trial? was it done in ANIMAL models vs. humans? (last time I checked, I wasn’t a rat… nor did I live the life rats do – hello stress, work commitments and paying bills (pretty sure Pinky and the Brain only had to worry about taking over the world… )

While studies in animals hold promise, we DO need to take into account that they’re only preliminary and we can’t base nutrition information or guidelines off them!

If you need help discerning whether a study is appropriately done – ask your health care provider. We can help to explain what about a study is well done, and what factors need to be considered.

Anecdotal ‘evidence’ is not evidence as hopeful or as relatable as it may be.

(Hellooo at one point drinking radium and practicing lobotomies seemed like a good idea.)

One study is NOT enough to change how we eat – we need more data. Beginning your critical thinking when looking at research is KEY to not falling trap to restrictive eating behaviours and food fears.

References

  1. Government of Canada,Canadian Food Inspection Agency. (2016, September 08). 2013-2014 Aflatoxins in Corn Products, Nuts and Nut Butters, Dried Fruits, Cocoa Powder, Breads, Breakfast and Infant Cereals, and Spice Powders. Retrieved March 05, 2018, from http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/chemical-residues-microbiology/food-safety-testing-bulletins/2016-09-08/aflatoxins-in-corn-products-nuts-and-nut-butters-d/eng/1472775524830/1472775597248
  2. International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri). (2013). Aflatoxins – finding solutions for improved food safety. International Food Policy Research Institute. doi:10.2499/9780896296763
  3. Ask the Expert: Clearing Up Lectin Misconceptions – Today’s Dietitian Magazine. (n.d.). Retrieved March 05, 2018, from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1017p10.shtml
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