A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, suggests that barring peanuts and other allergenic foods from babies altogether might actually increase the risk of food allergy.
Giving infants peanuts at an early stage may help to avoid allergic reactions later.
The study- Learning Early About Peanut allergy- compared two groups of children aged between 4 to 11 months old.
One group was given snacks containing peanuts, while the other group avoided peanuts.
Of the children who avoided peanuts, 17% became allergic to the food by the age of five. But only 3% of the children who were randomly selected to consume peanut as infants went on to develop a peanut allergy – equivalent to a more than 80% risk reduction.
Lead investigator Professor Gideon Lack, from King’s College London, said: “For decades allergists have been recommending that young infants avoid consuming allergenic foods such as peanut to prevent food allergies. Our findings suggest that this advice was incorrect and may have contributed to the rise in the peanut and other food allergies.
“This is an important clinical development and contravenes previous guidelines. Whilst these were withdrawn in 2008 in the UK and US, our study suggests that new guidelines may be needed to reduce the rate of peanut allergy in our children.”
Prof Lack added: “Parents of infants and young children with eczema and/or egg allergy should consult with an allergist, paediatrician or their general practitioner prior to feeding them peanut products.”
He stressed that infants showing early signs of peanut allergy were excluded from the study and effects of peanut consumption in this group remained unknown.
Early introduction of peanut-containing food was found to be “safe and well tolerated” in the children. The infants were not fed whole peanuts because of the potential risk of choking.
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