Over 90 percent of food allergy is caused by 1 of “the big 8“. The big 8 refer to the big 8 allergens, which include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.
A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine may be changing the way we look at introduction of peanuts in children. This study, conducted in England, set out to determine if giving peanuts to children before they turned age one would help them avoid an allergy to peanuts.
The kids selected for the study were between the age of 4 months and 11 months and were grouped into two groups: those who ate peanuts and those who avoided peanuts.
This study found that the kids who ate peanuts before age one were much less likely to develop a peanut allergy than those who avoided eating them before they turned one. When the kids turned five only 3.2% of kids who ate peanuts had developed an allergy and 17.2% of kids who did not have peanuts developed an allergy.
In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that there is no conclusive evidence to support avoiding peanut containing foods beyond 4-6 months of age to help stave off allergies. They have not, however, come out and actually recommended that parents feed their kids peanut-containing foods at early stages.
This study gives reason to believe that it may be better to introduce possible allergens to children at an earlier age in order to help children from developing allergies.
More research is needed to provide useful advice regarding this issue, but introducing new foods at a younger age could help protect children when they get older.
In light of this study, it is important to keetp in mind that peanuts and peanut butter are choking hazards for young children, especially for kids under one year of age. For more information on food allergy, check out the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) website.
Special thanks to dietetic intern Andrea Fitzgerald for her assistance with this post.