Feeding babies peanuts and eggs can reduce risk of developing allergies in later life, study shows

Children as young as four months may benefit from eating foods with high rates of allergy

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 21 September 2016 11:02 BST
Egg and peanut sensitivities are the most common allergies in infants and toddlers.
Egg and peanut sensitivities are the most common allergies in infants and toddlers.

Feeding young children foods such as peanuts and eggs can significantly reduce the risk of them developing dangerous allergies to the foods later in life, new research shows.

Researchers found that the introduction of egg to children aged four to six months and the introduction of peanuts to children aged four to 11 months was linked to lower rates of peanut and egg allergy.

Egg and peanut sensitivities are the most common allergies in infants and toddlers.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), used the combined results of trials into the introduction of allergenic food during the first year of life, and concluded there was “moderate certainty” early introduction of egg and peanut was associated with lower incidences of allergies to them.

The team used the term “moderate certainty” because the study is based on various pieces of research which differ from one another in their quality and execution. It is also difficult to set a control group in feeding studies.

The authors concluded further work needs to be done to discover the optimal timing for the introduction of egg and peanuts.

The researchers also said there was “high-certainty evidence” that timing of gluten (wheat) introduction was not associated with whether celiac disease could develop later in life.

Allergies are widespread and are rising fast in the western world.

Each year in the UK, the number of allergy sufferers increases by 5 per cent and half of all people affected are children.

According to Allergy UK, there has been a 500 per cent increase in hospital admissions for food allergies since 1990, and the UK is one of the top three countries in the world for the highest incident of allergy.

Allergy UK head of clinical services Amena Warner told the Independent: “There is now scientific evidence that healthcare providers should recommend introducing peanut-containing products, such as smooth peanut butter (never whole peanuts under 5 years of age) into the diet of “high-risk” infants early on in life (between 4 – 11 months of age) in countries where peanut allergy is prevalent (such as the UK), since delaying the introduction of peanut may be associated with an increased risk of developing peanut allergy.

She added: “Infants with early-onset atopic disease, such as severe eczema, or egg allergy in the first 4-6 months of life may benefit from evaluation by an allergist or physician trained in management of allergic diseases in this age group to diagnose any food allergy and assist in implementing these suggestions regarding the appropriateness of early peanut introduction.”

The most common food allergies are to: peanuts, sesame, cows’ milk, soy, egg, tree nuts, peanut, wheat, fish and shellfish.

People who have already developed allergies to particular foods should not change their diet, the study’s findings only relate to the prevention of allergies, not the management of them.

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