Peanuts in Infancy May Prevent Allergies Later
Astounding results from a recent study of allergy risk and exposure to a potential allergen in infancy prompted a director at the National Institutes of Health to declare, “The results have the potential to transform how we approach food allergy prevention.”
“Food allergies are a growing concern, not just in the United States but around the world," said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. Familiar to many as one of the first researchers to unravel how HIV causes AIDS, Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
He was commenting on a new study, which suggests that adding peanuts to the diets of infants at risk for developing peanut allergy dramatically decreases the risk that those children will subsequently develop potentially life-threatening peanut allergies later in life.
The infants were believed to be at high risk of developing peanut allergy because they has already shown signs of egg allergy, or they had eczema, a skin disorder linked to immune system dysfunction. The study design considered two separate approaches to allergy prevention: avoidance or exposure. Some children were protected from any exposure to peanuts or peanut products in infancy. Others received at least six grams of peanut protein daily. That’s a little less than one-quarter of an ounce. The infants were aged 4 to 11 months at the time of enrollment. The children were maintained on their respective avoidance or consumption diets until the age of 5.
At five years of age, the children were all tested for peanut allergy. Kids who were raised eating peanuts regularly were 81% less likely to suffer peanut allergies, compared to never-exposed children. The remarkably robust results prompted Fauci to declare, “For a study to show a benefit of this magnitude in the prevention of peanut allergy is without precedent.”
“Prior to 2008, clinical practice guidelines recommended avoidance of potentially allergenic foods in the diets of young children at heightened risk for development of food allergies,” said Daniel Rotrosen, M.D., director of NIAID's Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation. “While recent studies showed no benefit from allergen avoidance, the LEAP study is the first to show that early introduction of dietary peanut is actually beneficial and identifies an effective approach to manage a serious public health problem.”
George Du Toit, Graham Roberts, Peter H. Sayre, Henry T. Bahnson, Suzana Radulovic, Alexandra F. Santos, Helen A. Brough, Deborah Phippard, Monica Basting, Mary Feeney, Victor Turcanu, Michelle L. Sever, Margarita Gomez Lorenzo, Marshall Plaut, Gideon Lack. Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy. New England Journal of Medicine, 2015; 150223141105002 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1414850