Allergy Update: New England Journal of Medicine study shows peanut allergies can be reduced with early introduction

As reported on February 23, 2015, a new study suggests that introducing products containing peanut protein, such as snacks or peanut butter, early in life might prevent peanut allergy. The landmark study was conducted by lead researcher, pediatric allergy professor Gideon Lack, and was included in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study was conducted on 640 infants – all of whom were at a high risk of developing a peanut allergy – and included a standard skin-prick test to check for peanut sensitivity. Infants then consumed a peanut snack or peanut butter at least three times a week, or avoided peanuts until they turned five years old.

Of considerable importance are the findings that show that early, sustained consumption of peanut products was associated with a substantial and significant decrease in the development of peanut allergy in high-risk infants. Only three per cent of the high-risk group that was raised eating peanuts developed allergic reaction. A significantly larger percentage of the group who avoided peanuts – 17 per cent – ended up allergic.

With continued research that shows the approach is safe, early conclusions could point to improvements in managing other allergies, such as milk, eggs and tree nuts. It could also help reduce the recent strongly rising trend in peanut allergy among children.

The study received significant news and social media coverage worldwide. Industry response has been positive and has raised questions about the usefulness of deliberate avoidance of peanuts as a strategy to prevent allergies.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine