Friday, November 19, 2010

The secret powers of oatmeal

I'd like to ask you a favor. Since the purpose of this blog is to raise $1 million for eczema research-- through a cunning plan the details of which will be revealed, and if you find out, please tell me-- I'd appreciate it if you could link to this site and share it with your friends. This will raise the blog's Google profile. At the moment if you go to and type in "eczema blog," Google returns a lot of pretty useless sites. (Mind you, Priya Mulji's blog ranks highly--she sometimes has a good personal take on eczema, although not from a scientific angle.) To attract the attention of potential donors, I want to get this site ranked higher. I'm not asking YOU for money, unless you can write a check for $100,000. I just want to reach blue-blood philanthropists affected by eczema who may not realize they could make a difference.

About Aveeno's new "Eczema Therapy" product line, now touted on their Facebook page-- writing about it yesterday, I wondered what it was about colloidal oatmeal that makes it such a fantastic ingredient in these various powders, bars, lotions, etc. that Aveeno manufactures. I wrote to Peter Lio, MD, an associate professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University. Lio gave a presentation at this summer's NEA Patient Conference in Chicago, and covered skin pH, cleansers, and moisturizing, so I figured he'd have an answer. And he did. Let me quote his email, since it is so readable and packed with information:

About the Eczema Therapy line:
They've actually been out for a few years, initially as Aveeno Eczema Care, then the FDA slapped their wrists for putting a disease name on a product without evidence to back it up... so they had to pull it and it was then called Aveeno Advanced Care... and now they've finally got it back up with some data, calling it Eczema Therapy.
On oatmeal:
Oatmeal is pretty interesting and does seem to have some specific anti-itch and anti-inflammatory properties of its own. "Avenanthramides" are thought to be the "active ingredient" in them (but it is probably a whole lot more complex, as with many plant products).
Aventhramides, he says, act to reduce cellular levels of NF-KB, a molecule that triggers protein production in the immune response-- so they could reduce inflammation in this way. From what I know, NF-KB seems to be involved in a lot of processes, so there must be more going on, and Lio elaborates:
Cells treated with avenanthramides showed a significant inhibition of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a powerful inflammatory cytokine. They have also found direct anti-itch effect with these substances as well. (Reference)
He thinks Aveeno may be going too far, chasing novelty for marketing purposes: 
[The] Aveeno such a complex lineup of products and they keep moving things around and changing things!  If I tell a patient about an Aveeno product, they go to CVS or Walgreens and find 2 shelves of different types of moisturizers... Active Naturals, Positively Radiant, Clear Complexion, Positively Ageless, Nourishing Refresher...I just wish they'd put their best foot forward and make the best one they can make. That's why I love CeraVe so much.
I agree. Less is more. Aveeno confuses me with their offerings. At least their shaving gel is back on the market, after a hiatus of frickin' MONTHS in which I had to shave using an Aveeno bar or whatever fragrance-free shave gel I could find at CVS. (Walgreens: still in the Stone Age, carries no fragrance free shave gel.)

Lio also has some interesting ideas about other natural emollients, which I'll share in a future post.

Remember the ACAAI meeting in Denver? (Peanuts in schools; anaphylactic shock via sex.) I did get in touch with Mitchell Grayson, one of the four pugilists in the Great Atopic Dermatitis Raft Debate. He was in the "eosinophil" corner, and he sent me his Powerpoint presentation. Now I know a lot more about eosinophils. And so will you, if you read my next post.

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