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Feeding peanuts to babies could prevent allergies through teen years, says study

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Feeding peanut butter to babies — starting during infancy and continuing until age 5 — has been shown effective in reducing allergies into adolescence, according to a new study by King’s College London.

The LEAP-Trio study, published on Tuesday in NEJM Evidence, showed that children who consumed peanuts early in life were 71% less likely to develop peanut allergies all the way up to 13 years of age.

This was a follow-up to the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) clinical trial. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) sponsored and co-funded both studies. 

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In the original trial, half the participants were asked to consume peanuts regularly from infancy until age 5, while the other half were asked to avoid the food during that period.

Researchers found that early introduction of peanuts reduced the risk of peanut allergy at age 5 by 81%.

Feeding peanut butter to babies has shown to be effective in reducing allergies into adolescence, according to a new study. (iStock)

This latest trial included 508 participants from the original study, averaging 13 years of age. 

The children were given peanuts in a “carefully controlled setting” to gauge any allergic reactions.

Peanut allergies were “significantly more prevalent” among the children who avoided peanuts in the first five years of life.

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“Regular, early peanut consumption reduced the risk of peanut allergy in adolescence by 71% compared to early peanut avoidance,” the study authors wrote.

This effect persisted regardless of whether the children had eaten peanuts regularly or avoided them over a period of many years.

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“The key finding of this study is that early consumption of peanut, starting early in the first year of life, confers long-term protection against peanut allergy all the way into adolescence, even without continued consumption of peanut beyond the age of five years,” lead study investigator Gideon Lack, a professor at King’s College London, told Fox News Digital. 

Salted peanuts

Children who consumed peanuts early in life were 71% less likely to develop peanut allergies all the way up to 13 years of age, researchers found. (iStock)

“This is the first study to establish long-term oral tolerance as a protective strategy against peanut allergy.”

To prevent peanut allergy, young babies as early as 4 months of age should be given peanuts in the form of peanut puffs or peanut butter “regularly and frequently” — at least three times a week — over the first four to five years of life, the researchers recommended.

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“I was not entirely surprised, but nevertheless impressed by the strong protective effect of early peanut consumption preventing peanut allergy all the way into adolescence,” Lack noted. 

“This indicates that lifelong tolerance may have been achieved.”

Peanut butter baby

“Early introduction of infant-safe peanut foods has been proven to help prevent peanut allergies, especially but not exclusively in infants at risk for peanut allergies,” a registered dietitian told Fox News Digital.  (iStock)

Sherry Coleman Collins, a food allergy dietitian in Marietta, Georgia, was not involved in the study but shared her insights on the topic.

“Early introduction of infant-safe peanut foods has been proven to help prevent peanut allergies, especially but not exclusively in infants at risk for peanut allergies,” she told Fox News Digital. 

“In this study, they found that even if children who ate peanut foods in infancy stopped eating peanuts for a period of time, they were still protected against developing a peanut allergy,” Collins continued. 

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This supports the idea that tolerance to foods developed in infancy can extend into adolescence, according to Collins. 

“Infants who have moderate to severe eczema and/or egg allergy should discuss early introduction of peanut foods to help prevent peanut allergies because they are at highest risk,” she advised.

“Infants who have moderate to severe eczema and/or egg allergy should discuss early introduction of peanut foods to help prevent allergies.”

The study did have some limitations, Lack acknowledged.

“One weakness of the study is that it was carried out in a high-risk population of babies with severe eczema or hens egg allergy,” he told Fox News Digital. 

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“However, the findings of the original LEAP study have now been replicated in other lower-risk normal populations and therefore are applicable to the general population.”

These findings could likely be effective for other types of food allergies, the researchers said.

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