Sunday, March 8, 2015

Can Early Childhood Peanut Exposure Prevent Peanut Allergies?

Even though the idea is somewhat counter-intuitive, but does exposing your infants to peanuts really prevent them from acquiring peanut allergies later in life? 

By: Ringo Bones 

A recent study conducted in the UK involving 628 participating infants shows that infants introduced to eating peanuts cuts incidences of peanut allergies later in life. It may seem counter-intuitive but the study shows that early childhood exposure to peanuts by introducing peanuts into their diet cuts peanut allergies a few years later. 

The King’s College London researchers said it was the “first time” that allergy development had been reduced. Trials on 628 babies prone to developing peanut allergy found the risk was cut by over 80 percent. Specialists said that the findings could be applied to other allergies and may change diets around the world, but warned parents not to experiment at home without medical supervision. 

The research team in London had previously found that Jewish children in Israel who started eating peanuts earlier in life had allergy levels 10 times lower than Jewish children in the UK. The trial reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, focused on babies as young as four months who had already developed eczema – an early warning sign of allergies. Skin prick tests were used to identify these who had not yet developed peanut allergy or had only a very mild response. 

Children under five should not eat whole peanuts without parental supervision because of an increased risk of choking, so half were given a peanut based snack. The other half continued avoiding peanuts. The trial indicated that for every 100 children, 14 would normally go on to develop an allergy by the age of five. But this fell by 86 percent to just 2 out of every 100 children with the therapy. Even children who were already becoming sensitive to peanuts benefited. Their allergy rates fell from 35 percent to 11 percent. 

Lead researcher Prof. Gideon Lack told the BBC: “(It was) exciting to us to realize in the first time that in allergy, we can actually truly prevent the development of the disease. It represents a real shift in culture.” Prof. Lack also said that high-risk children “need to be evaluated, have skin-prick testing and dietary advice (before), in most cases, early introduction of peanut.” Until 2008, at risk families were told to actively avoid peanut products and other sources of allergic reactions, looks like early childhood exposure therapy really does represent a paradigm shift in the culture of peanut allergy treatment.  

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