Peanut allergies, the leading cause of death related to a food allergy, are an ever-present concern among parents, especially in the United States and other Western countries where its prevalence has increased fourfold in the past 13 years (Gruchalla). Peanut allergies develop early in childhood and are sustained throughout adulthood. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Du Toit et al. concluded that children at high risk for peanut allergies were less prone to develop the allergy when introduced to peanuts at an early age.
[pullquote align=”left” ” size=”1″]The results, which has shocked parents and researchers alike, indicate that allergy rates were significantly lower in groups that consumed peanuts over the duration of the study when compared to the groups that avoided it.[/pullquote]
Due to the increasing prevalence of peanut allergies in recent times, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had released a guideline earlier in 2000, aligning with studies at the time, that parents should not introduce peanuts to a child’s diet until the age of 3.
However, the research team from King’s College London observed that the risk of developing peanut allergies were 10 times higher for Jewish children living in the United Kingdom when compared to children in Israel. The surprising finding here is that infants in the UK do not consume peanuts in their first year of life, while children in Israel had peanuts introduced in their diet starting at seven months.
In order to confirm their findings, Du Toit and colleagues conducted a randomized trial of 628 infants (4‐11 months of age) documenting the effects of peanut consumption in infants at risk for peanut allergy. 530 of the participants were not sensitive to peanuts at the start of the study while 98 were. Members of both populations were randomly assigned to either peanut consumption or peanut avoidance groups. The prevalence of peanut allergy within each group was then assessed at 60 months.
The results, which has shocked parents and researchers alike, indicate that allergy rates were significantly lower in groups that consumed peanuts over the duration of the study when compared to the groups that avoided it. The risk of developing peanut allergy at 60 months was down from 13.7% to 1.9% in the population insensitive to peanuts and from 35.3% to 10.6% in population sensitive to peanuts when peanuts were consumed in the duration of the study.
While there are still questions to be explored before new guidelines can be put in place regarding peanut allergies, the findings of this study are nonetheless exciting to the scientific community. This publication introduces a new approach to addressing the rising prevalence of food allergies in children around the globe.
Du Toit, G., Roberts, G., Sayre, P. H., Bahnson, H. T., Radulovic, S., Santos, A. F., … & Lack, G. (2015). Randomized trial of peanut consumption in infants at risk for peanut allergy. New England Journal of Medicine, 372(9), 803‐813.