New study suggests feeding infants peanut butter can lower allergy risk

Introduction at early age might reduce a child’s risk of developing a peanut allergy

Nearly 33% of adults and more than 25% of children in the United States have at least one allergy. When it comes to peanuts, the allergy can be deadly. A new study, however, has discovered a way to possibly reduce an infant’s risk of developing it.

Peanut allergy is the most common cause of food-induced anaphylaxis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Anaphylaxis constricts the airways by causing swelling in the throat that makes it difficult to breath — and can be fatal, if untreated.

According to a study recently published in the journal NEJM Evidence and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, introducing peanuts to a healthy infant could keep them from ever developing an allergy.

“Today’s findings should reinforce parents’ and caregivers’ confidence that feeding their young children peanut products beginning in infancy according to established guidelines can provide lasting protection from peanut allergy,” NIAID director Jeanne Marrazzo, M.D., M.P.H., said a news release.

“If widely implemented, this safe, simple strategy could prevent tens of thousands of cases of peanut allergy among the 3.6 million children born in the United States each year.”

The study reported that children fed peanut products from infancy to the age of 5 were 71% less likely to develop peanut allergies. When feeding an infant, it is suggested that parents use smooth peanut butter mixed into a puree to avoid choking hazards.

“It can generally be said ‘the sooner the better’ for parents, especially in babies with eczema,” Gideon Lack, study author and professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London, told CNN.

“However, the child needs to be developmentally and neurologically ready to eat solid foods and be able to coordinate chewing and swallowing without a risk of choking. Most babies will be able to start weaning between four and six months of age but each baby is an individual and needs to be assessed individually,” he said. “Also, the foods should be given as a soft puree to facilitate swallowing and reduce the risk of choking. We do not recommend introducing solids before three months of age.”