Can giving peanuts to infants prevent peanut allergies?

Can giving peanuts to infants prevent peanut allergies?

  • Peanut allergies are on the rise as more and more children get diagnosed with this deadly food allergy
  • Research is now showing that giving children peanuts in infancy actually prevents the development of an allergy later on
  • This new research leaves the door open for more research on food allergies and how we can help those who suffer from these restrictions.

 

Food allergies have been on the rise these past couple of years. Foods ranging from gluten, dairy, soy, and eggs have been cut out of diets in order to prevent an allergic reaction. However, the most common allergy remains to be the peanut allergy. Peanut allergies are often very dangerous and can result in shortness of breath, throat swelling, and even the inability to breathe.

Five percent of children in the United States suffer from a peanut allergy. Many researchers are speculating that the rates have tripled in the past decade. Food allergies have never been fully understood, in that we are not sure what causes them. However, it is very scary for the child, parents, and even in the school environment to have a child with a peanut allergy. Precautions are taken to prevent this allergy from a very young age, but what we have been recommending seems to be counterintuitive in light of new research.

My first job as a registered dietitian was as a WIC Nutritionist, where I counseled high-risk pregnant women, infants, and children about how to live a healthy life. One of our main recommendations was discouraging giving infants foods that typically caused allergies in children, such as peanuts, dairy, and soy. Little did we know, only a few years later, that giving peanuts to infants is now being encouraged as a way to prevent allergies later on in life.

This is brand new research but has many implications in the food allergy realm. Typically, we are taught to avoid the foods that can cause the most allergies, and for children, this is typically peanuts and other nuts. However, researchers are seeing that children being given peanuts in infancy are not being allergic to it later on in life, and that in can in fact “prevent” an allergy from developing later on.

Peanut allergies have been on the rise in the past few decades, but this new research implies that we have perhaps been going at this all wrong. Maybe it is best to give the children the food in question so they can develop a tolerance. This begs the question: can this method be used for other food allergies such as dairy, gluten, and soy?

Since this is brand new research, I wouldn’t start putting anything into practice before speaking with your health care provider. Every child is different, and allergies can be deadly. But, this research opens up a whole new methodology behind food allergies. My hope as a dietitian is that they continue to do research on peanut allergies, as well as other food allergies, in the hopes of giving this new generation of children more freedom in their food choice. Not only would this be easier on parents, but also on schools, who feel the pressure to have a “peanut-free” environment to protect the children with this severe allergy.

Food research changes on a daily basis, but it is important to keep up with the times and be aware of emerging research and their implications. I look forward to see where this research will take us, and how this will be applied to our infant nutrition recommendations in the future.

 

About the author

Tveen Verano [MPH, RD] is a registered dietitian nutritionist from Southern California. She is currently working as a renal dietitian and has a private practice as a registered dietitian and online wellness coach. Her passion for nutrition and real food drives her to keep up with current research and provide relevant and applicable information to the public to help stop the trend of obesity and provide vitality and health to everyone.

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