Results from the Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP) study have been published in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine offer strong support that early introduction of peanut products may offer protection from the development of peanut allergies.
The prevalence of peanut allergy has doubled over the past 10 years in the U.S. and other countries that have advocated avoidance of peanuts during pregnancy, lactation, and infancy. The LEAP study was based on a hypothesis that regular eating of peanut-containing products, when started in the first year of life, will elicit a protective immune response instead of an allergic immune reaction.
Over 600 children between 4 and 11 months of age at high risk for peanut allergy were randomized to either consume or avoid peanut products until age 5. Children in the peanut consumption group ate a snack-food containing peanuts at least three times each week, while children in the peanut-avoidance group did not ingest peanut-containing foods.
17 percent of children in the avoidance group developed a peanut allergy by the age of 5 years. Only 3 percent of the children who consumed peanut snacks developed an allergy by age 5, suggesting that sustained consumption of peanut products beginning in the first 11 months of life was effective in preventing the development of peanut allergy.
There has been a recent surge of research relating development of allergic diseases with early life exposures. Many factors may be implicated including current state of health, family history, Caesarean delivery, exposure to viruses, bacteria, antibiotics, and breastfeeding, just to name a few. What is clear is that the development of allergic disease has a lot to do with an infant’s balance of gut bacteria related to exposures that is established in the first year of life. Much research is focused on this area and this is referred to as the microbiome.
The results of the LEAP study are so compelling that the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology will be proposing new guidelines for infant feeding in the near future. Parents should talk with their primary doctor and consult with a Board Certified Allergist if further questions arise. Of note, feeding an infant a whole nut is NOT what is being recommended as it is a choking hazard.
If you think you or you child is dealing with a food allergy, give us a call at 440-333-1107 or contact us online.
Dr. Nancy Wasserbauer, D.O., Allergy/Immunology
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