London: Regular consumption of peanut-snacks beginning in the first 11 months of life can help prevent subsequent development of peanut allergy even among those who are at a higher risk of developing the allergy, says new research.
"For decades, allergists have been recommending that young infants must avoid consuming allergenic foods such as peanut to prevent food allergies," said lead investigator professor Gideon Lack from Kings College London.
"Our findings suggest that this advice was incorrect and may have contributed to the rise in the peanut and other food allergies," Lack added.
Peanut allergy is an aberrant response by the body's immune system to harmless peanut proteins in the diet. It can cause adverse reactions ranging from development of hives and abdominal pain to severe anaphylaxis that requires immediate treatment with epinephrine.
The new randomised controlled study enrolled over 600 children between four and 11 months of age at high risk for peanut allergy.
Children in the peanut consumption arm of the trial ate a peanut-containing snack-food at least three times each week, while children in the peanut avoidance arm did not ingest peanut-containing foods.
The infants enrolled in the study had severe eczema and/or egg allergy, which put them at high risk of developing peanut allergy.
Of the children who avoided peanut, 17 percent developed peanut allergy by the age of five years. Remarkably, only three percent of the children who were randomised to eating the peanut snack developed allergy by the age of five.
The study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.