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Is peanut butter the answer to nut allergies?

Posted on the 28th March 2023

Peanut butter allergies

Nut allergy cases could be cut by 77 per cent by giving babies peanut butter, according to a new study.

The research suggests that giving infants tiny tastes of smooth peanut butter between the age of four months and six months dramatically cuts the chances of the allergy developing.

Conducted by the University of Southampton, King's College London and the research arm of the NHS - the National Institute for Health and Care Research- the team say that current advice on weaning, which says no solids until around six months, needs to change.

Peanut allergies are on the rise and affect around two per cent of children in North America and Europe.

The Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) trial demonstrated that early introduction of peanuts in a high-risk population of infants can reduce their risk of peanut allergy at age 5 years by 81 per cent.

Meanwhile, delaying the introduction of peanut-based foods until the child was one year old would only cut allergy cases by 33 per cent, according to the research.

Peanut allergy has become so common that some schools ban the ingredient.

There has been long-standing advice to avoid foods that can trigger allergies during early childhood. At one point, families were told to avoid peanut until their child was three years old.

However, evidence over the last 15 years has turned that on its head.

Instead, eating peanuts while the immune system is still developing - and learning to recognise friend from foe - can reduce allergic reactions, experts say.

It also means the body's first experience of peanut is in the stomach where it is more likely to be recognised as food rather than on the skin, where it may be more likely to be treated as a threat.

Other studies have suggested introducing other foods linked to allergies - such as eggs, milk and wheat - early also reduced allergy.

Related: New guidance on alcohol consumption issued

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