A group of scientists found that moderate exposure to peanut butter in infants’ first months could protect them against allergic reactions for at least a year after the babies stopped eating the protein-rich food. The approach worked even for children that were at a high risk of developing allergies.
The study, which was published Feb. 4 in The New England Journal of Medicine, confirms the findings of a 2015 study published in the same journal.
On Friday, a second study revealed that exposure to eggs, milk, fish, wheat and other foods that usually trigger allergies in infants could also shield children against allergic reactions. But because few parents agreed to put their children on such diet in their early months, the study couldn’t produce enough evidence.
But all three studies challenge official infant-feeding recommendations. For instance, the WHO believes that it is safer to only breastfeed an infant in his or her first six months. Yet, the last year’s study ignited a shift in the mindset of medical authorities in the U.S.
Gideon Lack, lead author of the latest study and researcher with King’s College London, unveiled his plans to further study the issue to see how lasting the protection may be. He suspects that the protection granted by early exposure to allergens may be longer than expected.
Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that funded the study noted that the new findings may be of great help to people who find it really hard to dodge peanuts in foods. Fauci thinks that a year of protection may do these people a lot of good.
Fauci’s institute plans to recommend feeding infants at a high allergy risk with peanut-based products in the first 4 to 6 months. Parents can learn whether their child is more prone to allergies by performing an allergy test or looking for skin rashes or allergic reactions to eggs in their kids.
The institute, which has funded last year’s study as well, will issue final recommendation after 45 days of comments. In the wake of the recent research, other health groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics plan to change their infant-feeding recommendations, too.
People allergic to peanuts do not have an easy life because the reaction is quite severe and it can be triggered by tiny bits of the protein. Plus, these patients need to keep injectable epinephrine close to counter the effects of the life-threatening allergic reaction.
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