A recent study out of Great Britain found that introducing peanut products into an infant’s diet reduces the child’s chances of developing a peanut allergy by 81 percent.
The study tested more than 600 high-risk infants, defined as babies with eczema and/or egg allergies. It was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was conducted by the NIAID-funded Immune Tolerance Network.
“Food allergies are a growing concern, not just in the United States but around the world,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “For a study to show a benefit of this magnitude in the prevention of peanut allergy is without precedent. The results have the potential to transform how we approach food allergy prevention.”
Infants from 4 to 11 months of age were randomly assigned to either avoid peanuts or eat at least six grams of peanut protein per week. The babies ate peanut butter or a snack called Bamba, made from puffed corn and peanut butter. This continued until the children were 5 years old, when researchers assessed peanut allergies in the study group.
Peanut allergies are relatively rare, affecting just 3 percent of children in developed countries.
Doctors and researches have called the study’s findings “ground-breaking.” However, they also want to remind parents that allergic reactions to peanuts or other foods can be life-threatening. Parents should consult an allergist, pediatrician or general practitioner prior to feeding peanut products to children at high-risk of developing peanut allergies.