Giving Your Young Kids Peanuts Could Cut Their Allergy Risk

Little boy sits at a table eating peanuts. Credit - Getty Images

Introducing peanut butters, soups and other products made from peanuts into your child’s diet early on may help prevent them from developing an allergy later in adolescence, a new study found.

Published in NEJM Evidence on Tuesday, the study found that feeding kids peanut products regularly from infancy to the age of five reduced the rate of peanut allergy in adolescence by 71%. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), whose National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) sponsored and co-funded the study, said that the results “provide conclusive evidence that achieving long-term prevention of peanut allergy is possible through early allergen consumption.”

“Today’s 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,” NIAID Director Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo said in a press release for the study. “If widely implemented, this safe, simple strategy could prevent tens of thousands of cases of peanut allergy among the 3.6 million children born in the United States each year.”

The new research, known as the LEAP-Trio study, builds on previous work conducted by the same researchers. In a previous study, half of the participants regularly ate peanut products from infancy until the age of five; the other half avoided peanut products in that same period of time. Researchers found that introducing children to peanut products early on in their childhood reduced the risk of peanut allergy at the age of five by 81%. At the time the study was released, then-NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “The results have the potential to transform how we approach food allergy prevention.”

Read More: How to Prevent Peanut Allergies

Researchers embarked on the recent LEAP-Trio study to determine whether the protection that early consumption of peanut products offered would last into adolescence, even if the children could choose to eat peanuts however much they wanted to.

Of the original study’s 640 participants, 508 were enrolled in the latest study; 255 of them had been in the peanut-consumption group and 253 had been in the peanut-avoidance group— with 13 being the average age of the participants in the latest study. Researchers tested the participants for peanut allergies by giving them gradually increasing amounts of peanuts to see if they could safely eat at least 5 grams— just over 20 peanuts.

Among the participants from the peanut-avoidance group, more than 15% had a peanut allergy at the age of 12 or older. Among the peanut-consumption group, only 4.4% had a peanut allergy.

While children in the peanut-consumption group ate more peanuts during their childhood than those in the peanut-avoidance group did overall, the frequency and amount of peanuts that participants ate varied in both groups; there were even periods of time when participants did not eat peanuts.

“This demonstrated that the protective effect of early peanut consumption lasted without the need to eat peanut products consistently throughout childhood and early adolescence,” the NIH shared in the press release.

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