Science

Peanut consumption in babies avoids allergy

By Natasha Fiera

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, research has shown that consumption of peanut products as a baby early in life could reduce their risk of an allergy. The prevalence of peanut allergies over the past decade has risen greatly and dramatically quadrupled within the United States. It is uncertain what has caused the increase, however the recommendation for babies to avoid peanut containing food has since changed.

It has been under the assumption by Doctors that babies should avoid certain food due to the idea that their immune systems wouldn’t be able to handle the foods. Doctors have therefore been warning new parents to wait until their babies are about 3 year olds to feed them foods such as peanut butter, eggs and fish, with the fear that they may be allergy triggering. The American Academy of Paediatrics withdrew those guidelines in 2008, suspecting that by telling people to not eat certain foods had in fact caused the allergy. ‘We might have caused this increase by telling people to not eat these things’ states Scott Sicherer, paediatrician and food allergy researcher.

Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine involved a study which looked at 550 children who were deemed prone to developing a peanut allergy. The latest research published in the same journal also carried out by King’s College London, builds on the previous findings and illustrates that introducing peanuts to children in infancy decreased the child’s likelihood of developing a peanut allergy. The study showed that children who have tried peanuts in the first 11 months of life end up having an 81 per cent decreased chance of having a peanut allergy by the time they were 5 years old, when compared with kids who were not introduced to peanuts in that time. This suggests that even the smallest amount of peanut containing food exposed to infants at a young age could stave off an allergy and prevent complications for the child later in life.

The scientists claim that the effects are long lasting and if a child is introduced to peanuts within the first 11 months of life they could afford to stop eating the food for a whole year – maintaining no allergy. Leader author of the research, Professor Gideon Lack states that part of the problem with allergies in that people live in a “culture of food fear”. He believes that allergies have become a “self-fulfilling prophecy” due to certain foods being excluded from an individual’s diets resulting in intolerance.

The study also found other benefits among the children who were introduced to peanuts early in life, such as lower rates in eczema, respiratory tract infections, near-sightedness and reported stomach bugs. Guidelines for parents are now being re-assessed to avert the development of allergies and further complications in their child. This particularly applies to those children who are at higher risk of developing allergies. This reassuring evidence could offer a way to reduce the rise in allergies and possibly offer hope to those already suffering.

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