What is the Best way to Prevent Peanut Allergy ?

prevent peanut allergy

If you want to prevent children from developing peanut allergy, what’s best ? Avoidance or eating peanuts at an early age? New research finds that peanut consumption at an early age, compared to avoidance, is the best way to prevent peanut allergy.

Peanut allergy is a food allergy that can cause anything from itching and swelling to more severe even lethal symptoms. The number of children affected by peanut allergy have doubled in the past 10 years. But it’s not all bad news, children with peanut allergy have recently been cured in a trial involving large doses of probiotics. An advance that provides some hope but isn’t available to the broad masses yet. The best solution would be to prevent children from becoming allergic in the first place. New research from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have investigated  if avoiding or eating peanuts is the best way to prevent peanut allergy.

Including Peanuts in Diet is the Best Way to Prevent Peanut Allergy

The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Observations of Israeli children have revealed that they suffer from peanut allergy at a much lower rate than children in other countries. Why is this ? Researchers think that this might result from exposure to peanuts and peanut containing foods at a very young age.

The study, learning early about peanut allergy (LEAP), included children with egg allergy and/or eczema, putting them at high risk of developing other food allergies. The study wanted to compare two strategies to prevent peanut allergy in children either consuming peanuts at an early age or avoiding peanuts altogether.

The study involved 640 high risk infants between 4 and 11 months old randomly assigned to either consume 6 grams of peanut protein per week or to completely avoid peanuts. These diets continued, under supervision from healthcare professionals, until the children turned 5 years old.

When the children reached 5 years of age researchers performed a supervised oral food challenge with peanuts to determine if children experienced any allergic reaction to peanuts. They found that overall there was a 81% reduction in peanut allergy in children who started eating peanuts at infancy compared to children avoiding peanuts in their diet.

Prior to 2008, clinical practice guidelines recommended avoidance of potentially allergenic foods in the diets of young children at heightened risk for development of food allergies,” said Daniel Rotrosen, M.D., director of NIAID’s Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation. “While recent studies showed no benefit from allergen avoidance, the LEAP study is the first to show that early introduction of dietary peanut is actually beneficial and identifies an effective approach to manage a serious public health problem.”

Next step for researchers is to determine if continuous peanut consumption is needed to maintain tolerance to peanuts.

Image Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture via flickr.com, CC BY-2.0