Brace yourselves, parents. Food allergen guidelines may be changing again.
A new NIH-funded study found that infants who ate peanuts were less likely to develop a peanut allergy. Even if nut allergies ran in their families. In fact, the study specifically looked at high-risk infants.
Does that mean that you should give peanuts to your infant right away? Not necessarily. Study author Dr. Gideon Lack, M.D. explained, “The study also excluded infants showing early strong signs of having already developed peanut allergy. The safety and effectiveness of early peanut consumption in this group remains unknown and requires further study. Parents of infants and young children with eczema or egg allergy should consult with an allergist, pediatrician, or their general practitioner prior to feeding them peanut products.” (emphasis mine)
For high risk infants that don’t require that extra caution, though, this could change their lives. NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D said, “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.”
The long-term study followed over 600 children from infancy (age four to 11 months) to age five. Some parents were instructed to avoid peanuts completely, while others fed their kids at least 6 grams of peanut protein per week. The infants in both groups had regular health screenings and the parents also took phone surveys about how things were going.
The kids who had a controlled exposure to peanuts had dramatically fewer peanut allergies. In fact, the researchers found and 81 percent reduction of peanut allergy in that group. That is huge!
The study – called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) – was only part one of this research. Researchers are now working on a follow-up study called LEAP-On. LEAP study participants will avoid peanuts for one full year to see whether their tolerance for peanuts continues.