Study suggests early exposure may curb peanut allergy
Recent studies show it is more beneficial to expose infants and children to peanut-containing products, rather than to encourage abstinence.Posted — Updated
Despite earlier recommendations from pediatricians, recent studies show it is more beneficial to expose infants and children to peanut-containing products, rather than to encourage abstinence.
Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of peanut allergies rose from 0.6 percent to between one and two percent. In the midst of this rise, the American Academy of Pediatrics made the recommendation to parents that they do not expose their young children to peanuts.
This recommendation, made in 2000, was meant to reduce the overall incidence of children developing peanut allergies.
Study Has Surprising Findings
The LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut Allergies) study showed that children abstaining were, in fact, more, not less, likely to develop allergies to peanuts.
The study took 600 children at a higher-than-average risk of developing peanut allergies and separated them randomly into two groups: one would completely abstain for the next five years, and the other would eat three peanut-containing snacks per week. The children began the study between 4 and 11 months old and were monitored throughout.
Out of the abstaining children, 17 percent developed peanut allergies, while, in the same pool of high-peanut-allergy-risk children, only three percent of those regularly eating peanuts developed reactions.
"Peanut allergy at 72 months was significantly more prevalent among participants in the peanut-avoidance group than among those in the peanut-consumption group," the study found.
The results caused the American Academy of Pediatrics to withdraw their anti-peanut recommendations.
The Hygiene Hypothesis
The study showed that by having their children avoid peanuts in hopes of preventing allergies, parents were raising the risk of these allergies five to seven times. The results actually may have given a clue as to why there was a rise in food allergies in the late 1990s, as well.
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