Early peanut consumption may prevent peanut allergy

By Tom Nordlie • Published: June 9th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For the parents of small children, peanut allergy is a big concern nowadays.

It’s a common food allergy, and exposure to peanuts can have grave consequences for a severely allergic child.

The allergy usually manifests between 6 months of age and 2 years old, after babies have begun eating solid food.

Because peanuts are found in a wide variety of processed foods, parents have a lot to worry about.

But a study published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine offers some good news. It might be possible to reduce the risk of peanut allergy by giving babies food that contains peanuts.

Yes … you heard that right.

The study came after researchers noted that peanut allergy is uncommon in Israel, where babies are often fed a peanut-based confection.

This observation led to an experiment involving more than 500 infants believed to be at high risk for developing peanut allergy.

Half the babies were kept on a peanut-free diet. The rest were given a candy containing peanuts, three times a week.

The experiment ended when the participants were 5 years old.

Among the children who avoided peanuts, about 14 percent developed a peanut allergy. Among those who ate peanut candy, the incidence was just under 2 percent.

That’s intriguing, to say the least.

The researchers cautioned that it’s unclear if early peanut exposure can provide permanent allergy protection. The scientists are working to confirm these initial findings.

Here’s another word of caution from the experts — parents should not interpret the study results as proof that it’s OK to give babies food containing peanuts. If you have questions about your baby’s diet, consult your pediatrician and follow his or her advice, nuts or no nuts.