Peanut allergies are among the most common food allergies in America today, but there’s good news for parents with children at risk of developing them — a new study suggests some peanut allergies can be prevented if at-risk children are fed foods with peanuts rather than avoiding all peanut product consumption.
The London-based study looked at a group of infants aged four to 11 months who were considered at high risk of developing a peanut allergy. The infants were randomly divided into two groups, one of which was regularly fed food containing peanuts. This continued until the children turned five.
Children in the group who consumed the peanut products were less likely to develop the allergy — and by a large margin. Only 1.9 percent of those who had been fed peanut products developed allergic reactions to the legume. In comparison, 13.7 percent of the children in the group that avoided peanuts developed the allergy.
“The early introduction of peanuts significantly decreased the frequency of the development of peanut allergy among children at high risk for this allergy and modulated immune responses to peanuts,” the study concluded.
An editorial published in The New England Journal of Medicine with the study’s findings spoke to the benefits of safely introducing peanut products to infants.
The study “clearly indicates that the early introduction of peanut dramatically decreases the risk of the development of peanut allergy” said Rebecca Gruchalla of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Hugh A. Sampson of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
The head researcher on the study, King’s College London Professor of Pediatric Allergy Gideon Lack, said “the common practice of withholding peanuts from babies could have been in part responsible for the rise in peanut allergies we have seen” over the past several years.
Still, pediatricians caution that parents should not feed whole peanuts to infants because of the choking risk, but rather products that include peanuts. Even then, use caution when exposing infants to peanut products, and do so only under the supervision of a medical professional, in case the child has a severe or preexisting peanut allergy.
There are, of course, many New York-made peanut butters and peanut products for purchase in the greater Hudson Valley area. If you’re feeling inspired — March is National Peanut Month, after all — check out our list of surprising uses for peanut butter and where you can pick up some of the New York State products locally.