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Introducing infants to peanuts can help prevent allergy later, study finds

A bowl of peanuts
A bowl of peanuts Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Lauren Chadwick
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The new findings provide evidence that introducing peanuts to infants could prevent peanut allergy in adolescence.


Feeding peanuts to children regularly from infancy to age five reduced the rate of peanut allergy when they were teens by 71 per cent, according to a new study.

The findings, published this week in the journal NEJM Evidence, found that early regular peanut consumption provided "lasting tolerance" to the legume even if the participants stopped eating peanuts afterwards.

The study was an extension of a previous randomised, controlled trial where half of participants consumed peanuts regularly from infancy to age 5 while the other half avoided them.

They found in the first part of the trial that early introduction of peanuts "significantly decreased" the frequency of peanut allergy among children who were at high risk for it, reducing their risk at age 5 by 81 per cent.

The investigators then followed up with the participants from when they were aged six to 12 or older.

The group with regular, early consumption of peanuts reduced their risk of allergy in adolescence by 71 per cent compared to the group that avoided them.

"Decades of advice to avoid peanuts has made parents fearful of introducing peanuts at an early age," Gideon Lack, lead investigator and a professor of paediatric allergy at King's College London, said in a statement.

"The evidence is clear that early introduction of peanut in infancy induces long-term tolerance and protects children from allergy well into adolescence," Lack added.

Peanut allergies on the rise

Peanuts are a common cause of food allergies, with a 2023 study estimating that the prevalence of peanut allergy in Europe was around 1.5 per cent. The allergy can be life-threatening.

"Right now, food allergies are on the rise in the UK, and incidence is growing among children," said Amena Warner, Head of Clinical Services at Allergy UK.

Warner said the study provides "hope to future generations that the prevalence of peanut allergy can be reduced," adding that the importance of research into the causes of food allergy "cannot be overstated".

"Peanut allergy can be especially challenging to live with. We know from the many people we support that the fear of having a fatal allergic reaction to peanut cannot really be understood by those who do not have food allergy," she said.

Co-lead investigator George Du Toit, also from King's College London, said that peanuts can be implemented as early as four months of age.

"The infant needs to be developmentally ready to start weaning and peanut should be introduced as a soft pureed paste or as peanut puffs," he said.

The study was co-funded in part by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

NIAID Director Jeanne Marrazzo said in a statement that the findings "should reinforce parents’ and caregivers’ confidence that feeding their young children peanut products beginning in infancy according to established guidelines can provide lasting protection from peanut allergy".

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