Published on 22nd November 2018 by Maria Correa

Welcome to this week’s medical news round up! Once again, we bring you the healthcare topics currently under the medical world’s microscope, making them relevant and useful to you as a med school applicant.

Joining us this week: promising new treatment for peanut allergies, a fake psychiatrist case and childhood BMI.

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New Peanut Allergy Treatment

A large study has shown that by slowly building tolerance, peanut allergy can be successfully treated.

500 children from the US and Europe were included in the study. None of these children could tolerate 1/10th of a peanut dose.

However, after one year of taking small daily doses of peanuts, two thirds of children could tolerate two whole peanuts.

As the number of children diagnosed with peanut allergy in the UK has doubled over 20 years, this study could lead to ground-breaking treatment, relieving children and their families of the fear of a fatal accidental peanut exposure.

What can we learn from this?

It is important to recognise that health conditions such as peanut allergies can impose big limitations on patients. Extreme allergies often mean strict diets and fear of accidentally eating traces of peanuts.

Understanding the potential impact of a condition on patients is a vital part of medical practice, in order to treat patients holistically.

Question to think about – how do you think a patient would feel after receiving a diagnosis for a chronic condition?

Read: How to answer empathy questions!

Why not try one of our quizzes?

Fake Psychiatrist Case

Thousands of doctors have their licences checked after a woman with no qualifications practised as a psychiatrist for 22 years.

Zholia Alemi, a woman from New Zealand, feigned a medical degree from Auckland University when she registered in the UK in 1995. Alemi, who dropped out of medical school during her first year, was practising as a consultant psychiatrist for dementia patients in Cumbria.

Her false claims of a medical qualification were only recently discovered, after she faked a dementia patient’s will in order to try to inherit a £1.3m estate.

Many have asked how this could have happened. Before 2003, a section of the Medical Act meant medical school graduates from some Commonwealth countries could join the UK register based purely on qualifications acquired from their country of origin.

Now, doctors coming into the UK have to take a medical test – PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board) exam.

What can we learn from this?

The GMC (General Medical Council) monitor medical education and training and provide guidelines to maintain patient safety. To practice in the UK, doctors must register with the GMC.

From this case, up to 3,000 doctors who registered under the same policies will have their licenses checked. Although GMC registration is more robust these days, there will be measures put in place to make sure a fraud like this does not happen again.

Question to think about – What is the role of the GMC?

GMC guidelines are very useful to know for medical school interviews and beyond! Take a look at what you should read before your med school interview here!

Childhood BMI

Contradictory to popular belief, new research suggests that it is unfair to blame parents for their children’s weight.

The research from King’s College London and UCL says that parents adapt feeding styles to match their child’s natural weight and size, both characteristics mainly determined by genetics.

Feeding styles refer to strategies in which parents regulate eating habits. The two main types are:

  • Restriction of food

Often used when child is naturally ‘bigger’ to encourage weight loss. However, restricting food creates a ‘forbidden fruit’ effect, often leading to weight gain as the child overeats on the restricted food.

  • Pressure to eat

Often used when child is naturally ‘smaller’ to encourage weight gain. However, this often makes the child anxious and therefore suppresses appetite further.

This study suggests that the parental feeding styles are simply responses to a child’s natural size, not determinants of the child’s size.

Although parents are often seen as ‘gate keepers’ to their child’s eating behaviour, this research shows genetic factors may have a larger role in children’s BMI than first thought.

Nevertheless, parents still have a major impact on their child’s weight and further research is needed to show the complexities of the relationship between parental feeding and children’s BMI.

What can we learn from this?

There seems to be many layers to the complex issue of childhood obesity. Influences include:

  • Parental (feeding, diet)
  • Genetics
  • Environmental (availability of healthy food)
  • Socioeconomic (accessibility of healthy food, education)
  • Political (policies such as the Sugar tax)

Research is still being carried out into which of these is the most influential, and therefore the most appropriate target for intervention.

Question to think about: Is childhood obesity a cause for concern for the NHS? Why?

Read more about Challenges Facing the NHS

Words: Katie Burrell

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