There is a long list of foods that you should never give to a baby, and peanuts are often thought to be on it. However, new research contradicts the belief that giving an infant peanuts may trigger an allergy.
Last year, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine stated that early exposure to peanut products could drastically reduce the risk of a child’s allergy later in life, and now new research conducted at King’s College London builds on these findings.
Using the same two groups of allergy-prone children from its 2015 study, half of whom had been fed only breast milk and the second half to whom had also been given peanut snacks, researchers made quite a remarkable discovery.
The children who took part in the study were considered peanut allergy prone because they had developed eczema as babies, which can be an early warning sign of allergies.
According to the researchers, children who are given peanuts within the first 11 months of their life could be at far less risk of developing a peanut allergy. By the age of 5, they can afford to stop eating the food entirely for a year and maintain no allergy.
“[The research] clearly demonstrates that the majority of infants did in fact remain protected and that the protection was long-lasting”, said lead author Professor Gideon Lack, adding that part of the problem is that we have a “culture of food fear” which in turn could cause more harm than good.
“I believe that this fear of food allergy has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the food is excluded from the diet and, as a result, the child fails to develop tolerance”, he added.
Professor Lack added that further studies were needed to see if the resistance could last longer than the 12-month abstinence period.
However, nuts can present a choking hazard, and children should never be fed whole nuts. Instead, researchers suggest smooth peanut butter or peanut snacks as an alternative.
According to Professor Lack, in the U.K. and U.S. combined, there are 20,000 babies a year being diagnosed with peanut allergies. WebMD reports that peanut allergies have been on the rise within the past decade, and the dangers presented by the allergy are obviously something which all parents fear, but perhaps this study could eventually provide parents with reassurance that scientists are close to finally finding a solution to peanut allergies.