How to prevent peanut allergy – don’t eat peanuts – or maybe – do eat peanuts...

New research published in November issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows that children who avoided peanut in infancy and early childhood were 10 times as likely to develop peanut allergy as those who were exposed to peanut.

Researchers measured the incidence of peanut allergy in 8,600 Jewish school-age children in the United Kingdom and Israel. They compared these results with data on peanut consumption collected from mothers of infants age four to 24 months. Prevalence of peanut allergy in the United Kingdom was estimated at 1.85 percent, versus 0.17 percent in Israel.

The most obvious difference in the diet of infants in both populations occurred in the introduction of peanut. At nine months, 69% of Israeli children were eating peanut, but only 10% of those in the U.K.

Dietary guidelines in the UK, Australia and - until earlier this year - the United States advise avoidance of peanuts during pregnancy, breastfeeding and infancy. While researchers suggest these recommendations could be behind the increase in peanut allergy in these countries, they cautioned that further evidence is needed that the early introduction of peanut is indeed effective before those guidelines should be changed.

The Learning Early about Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study at Children’s Allergy unit at St Thomas’ Hospital in London is currently testing the effects of early peanut exposure.

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First published in December 2008

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