Are we afraid of food?

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Are we afraid of food?

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Are food allergies on the increase and if so, why? Neil and Alice talk about the growing fear of food and teach new words.

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Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Neil Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Neil…

Alice … and I’m Alice. Neil, what are you eating?

Neil Peanuts.

Alice Hmm. Did you know that one of the producers, here, has an allergy to peanuts?

Neil No, I didn’t - but they’re not in the studio with us, so it doesn’t matter, does it?

Alice It only takes a tiny piece of peanut to cause a big allergic reaction in some people. An allergy by the way, is a condition that makes you feel ill after eating, touching or breathing in a particular substance.

Neil And food allergies are the subject of today’s show.

Alice Alright, put your peanuts down, Neil and answer today’s quiz question. What substance is used to treat a severe allergic reaction? Is it… a) penicillin? b) adrenalin? Or c) aspirin?

Neil OK, well, I’m going to go for a) penicillin.

Alice Well, we’ll find out if that’s the right answer later on. Now let’s listen to Dr Marianne Williams talking about why being too clean may not be a good thing. She is a dietician here in the UK.

INSERT Dr Marianne Williams, gastroenterology dietician, UK For roughly the first month of life the immune system is switched off in essence and everything they [babies] get exposed to in that first month in life - dogs, cats, aunts, uncles, grannies, grandpas, family, dirt - everything - that is where they build up all the bacteria that are then going to colonise their gut in the future. Now, if you’re born into a very sterile environment, as is increasingly the case in the western world, everything’s kept terribly clean, and one of the theories is that we just are not getting enough exposure to a variety of bacteria at that very very early stage in that first month of life.

Alice Dr Marianne Williams. The immune system is our body’s defence against infection. And it’s switched off - or not working - for the first month of a baby’s life.

Neil And through exposure to lots of things in our environment - that’s family, pets, dirt and so on - young babies meet different bacteria for the first time which colonise - or live and grow in - their guts.

Alice Yes, but in a sterile environment babies don’t get exposed to - or don’t meet - a wide enough variety of bacteria. Sterile means completely clean and free of bacteria. And there’s a theory that being too clean and bacteria-free - now we have soap, antibiotics and better sanitation - has lead to an increase in allergies.

Neil So dirty play for babies is good - mud, pets, picking stuff up off the floor and eating it.

Alice Did you use to eat food off the floor when you were little, Neil?

Neil Used to? I still do. I enjoy food from the floor!

Alice Well, Neil, what can I say? We’re both lucky to be allergy-free. I have a friend who has an allergy to gluten - a protein found in wheat and some other grains - and she has to be very careful about what she eats so she doesn’t get ill.

Neil The supermarkets are quite helpful, though, aren’t they, with products ‘free from this’ and ‘free from that’?

Alice This is helpful, yes. But the food industry is now marketing their products to attract consumers who don’t have a proven - or tested - allergy.

Neil Why would you buy free-from foods if you don’t have a food allergy?

Alice Well, people have started to believe that certain foods - like gluten or dairy - are bad for us, though there isn’t any medical evidence to support this. Let’s hear about how rickets - a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin D in the diet - is affecting some children in the UK. This is BBC reporter Mike Williams.

INSERT Mike Williams, BBC reporter Rickets is common in the developing world but this is London in the 21st century. These children aren’t malnourished because they’re too poor to eat well - it’s the opposite. Their often middle-class parents are spending money to give them foods with ingredients taken out. It’s as if some of us have become unnecessarily frightened of our food.

Neil Rickets usually affects malnourished childrenfrom poor countries- children who don’t have enough to eat - and it makes their bones weak. But here in London some parents are buying their children expensive free-from foods - for example to avoid dairy - and are sometimes making them very ill.

Alice It sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Neil Yeah… it’s nuts! Get it? Nuts.

Alice Very good.

Neil Yes. Nuts - that means crazy. Now I think it’s time for the answer to today’s quiz question.

Alice OK, then. So earlier in the show I asked: What substance is used to treat a severe allergic reaction? Is it… a) penicillin? b) adrenalin? Or c) aspirin?

Neil I said a) penicillin.

Alice And you were wrong, Neil! The correct answer is b) adrenalin. An injection of adrenalin can be used to treat anaphylaxis - or severe allergic reactions - to insect stings, foods, drugs, and other allergens. Antibiotics such as penicillin treat bacterial infections and aspirin is a painkiller you might take for a headache.

Neil OK, can you tell us the words we heard today again please, Alice?

Alice Sure. They are: allergy immune system switched off colonise get exposed to sterile gluten proven rickets malnourished nuts anaphylaxis

Neil Well, that’s the end of today’s 6 Minute English. Don’t be afraid to join us again soon.

Alice You know where to find us, don’t you? Go to where you’ll find grammar points, vocabulary and more editions of 6 Minute English.

Both Bye.

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