The study was somewhat controversial-it went against doctors’ age-old wisdom that parents should not feed potentially allergy-triggering foods to their kids until they got older-and many in the research world wanted to know if the team’s findings could be reproduced and expanded. The children were largely protected a year after stopping peanuts.
Findings from the study were scheduled to be presented Friday at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology meeting in Los Angeles.
The draft says, in a nutshell, that babies should start eating peanut products when they’re 4 to 6 months old, said Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, a pediatric allergist at Children’s Hospital Colorado who helped write the document.
Mothers of children in the first group were asked to comply with current guidelines, which recommend that mothers breastfeed their children for the first six months of their lives before introducing them to allergenic foods if they so choose.
Peanut allergies have increased in the USA and the U.K.in recent decades. The recommended quantity per week includes one-and-a-half teaspoons of peanut butter or one small boiled egg.
“The immune system appears to remember and sustain its tolerant state, even without continuous regular exposure topeanuts“, added Nepom, who also heads the Immune Tolerance Network, a research group sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Analysis of how peanut exposure could affect children at risk of developing a reaction to the common allergen was profiled in The New England Journal of Medicine. Now, between 1-3 percent of all children across the USA, Western Europe, and Australia have peanut allergies-and very few of them will outgrow it. Feeding kids with allergy-causing foods, early in life, resulted in protection against allergy until the age of a minimum of five years and the protection level did not reduce even if the child did not consume food containing peanut for a year.
Of those children who avoided eating peanuts, 35% tested positive for a peanut allergy with a skin prick test, while those who were instructed to eat peanuts tested positive 11% of the time. In fact, after just 12 months of avoiding peanuts, researchers found that about 5 percent of children fed peanuts as babies became allergic to peanuts, compared to about 19 percent of those who stayed away from peanuts following birth.
“Our study was looking at the introduction of multiple allergenic foods to infants recruited from the general population”,said Dr. Michael Perkin, co-author of the research.
“The LEAP-ON findings exceeded our expectations and demonstrated that the early consumption of peanuts provided stable and sustained protection against the development of peanut allergy in children at greatest risk for this allergy”, said Dr. Lack in a statement.
The persistence of tolerance with complete avoidance of peanut for one year strongly suggests that periodic lapses in peanut consumption will not cause a reemergence of allergy. Infants are considered high-risk for peanut allergies if they have eczema or egg allergies.
In the second study, researchers compared infants who were exclusively breast-fed for their first six months with others who were introduced to yogurt, milk, peanuts, eggs, sesame, whitefish and wheat at the same age.
“Why these studies are important is the global allergy to peanuts has been growing”, McDavid said.
Researchers followed up with the kids who had eaten peanuts up until age 5. There were only 3 subjects from the consumer group who developed new peanut allergy during the 12 months of peanut avoidance, but there were also 3 subjects from the avoidance group who developed new peanut allergy.