Monday, March 02, 2015
One of the most common allergens, peanuts, can leave someone puffing or huffing literally. However, a study has now found that introduction of peanut products into the diets of infants at high risk of developing peanut allergy before 11 months of age can reduce the risk of subsequent allergy by 80%.
A study named Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) published in the New England Journal of Medicine yielded this result. The researchers wanted to investigate the observation that Jewish children brought up in Israel have lower rates of peanut allergy than their counterparts in the UK. For the study, they recruited 640 infants aged 4-11 months with pre-existing either eczema or egg allergy and at a high risk of peanut allergy.
These infants were randomly assigned to 1 of the 2 groups: Group 1, wherein the families were advised to feed peanut-containing products three times a week or more, and Group 2, in which the families were advised against feeding peanut products until 5 years of age. Questionnaires and testing the peanut levels at home provided information on adherence. The children were re-evaluated at 5 years of age.
They found that <1% of the children who were given peanut products and completed the study as per protocol developed peanut allergy by the age of 5 in comparison to 17.3% of those who avoided peanut products at the same time. The overall rate of allergy in the children consuming peanut products was 3.2% compared to 17.2% in the avoidance group, translating to an over 80% reduction in the rate of allergy.
Talking about the study findings, the researchers said, "The early introduction of peanuts significantly decreased the frequency of the development of peanut allergy among children at high risk for this allergy and modulated immune responses to peanuts."
However, they also issued a word of caution. They study did not include infants with early strong signs of peanut allergy thus early feeding can’t be considered as a safe or effective allergy-prevention strategy. They also advised that parents consult an Allergist or Paediatrician before adopting these results. The LEAP study will continue monitoring the children who consumed peanuts to understand if these results are transient or if they remain protected even when they stop consuming peanuts for 12 months.
Although more recent guidelines already recommend early exposure to allergenic foods, the study paves the way for the developing guidelines to reduce the rates of peanut allergy in children.
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