Earlier Intro of Peanuts Cuts Allergy Risk by 77 Percent, Study Says
Exciting new research suggests that introducing peanuts to babies at around four to six months can lower their risk of developing a peanut allergy by a staggering 77 percent. This is significant news as food allergies have been on the rise in recent years, with an estimated 1 in 13 kids or around two students per classroom reported to have a food allergy. Among the top eight allergy offenders are peanuts, common in thousands of foods and cafeterias across the nation.
The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NHS) and published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, is based on analysis of two large studies, the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (Leap) trial, and the Enquiring About Tolerance (Eat) trial. While previous studies have shown the advantages of introducing peanuts, earlier questions remained about the optimal age to reduce allergies.
In their observations, scientists noticed that most peanut allergies developed between six and 12 months of age. They saw the greatest reduction in the development of peanut allergies—77 percent—when peanuts were introduced between four and six months. This strategy could really add up, preventing 10,000 out of the roughly 13,000 cases of peanut allergies developing each year in the UK.
Not only did researchers see the greatest reduction in allergy risk between four and six months, but the longer parents waited to introduce peanuts, the more the estimated reduction in peanut allergy diminished. If introduction was delayed to 12 months, baby’s risk of peanut allergy was only reduced by 33 percent—especially among babies with eczema, a risk factor for allergies.
Based on their findings, the study’s authors recommend that children with eczema be introduced to peanuts from four months old and other infants introduced at six months of age – a delay acknowledging the challenges of introducing foods.
“Over several decades, the deliberate avoidance of peanut has understandably led to parental fear of early introduction,” wrote study co-author Graham Roberts in a press release. “This latest evidence shows that applying simple, low-cost, safe interventions to the whole population could be an effective preventive public health strategy that would deliver vast benefits for future generations.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends introducing peanuts and other highly allergenic foods around six months of age, along with other solid foods. To prevent possible choking hazards, the AAP suggests introducing children under 4 to ground peanuts or other formulations instead of whole or broken peanuts. For high-risk infants with eczema or egg allergies, the AAP suggests the introduction of peanuts as early as four months of age under the supervision of a doctor.
It’s important to talk to your pediatrician before introducing any new foods to your baby’s diet.“We encourage parents to talk to their pediatrician or allergist about the symptoms of allergies and whether their child should be tested,” A. Wesley Burks, M.D., FAAP, of the AAP wrote in a press release. “The physician can help track any changes in allergies, some of which may go away as a child grows older.”
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