What is the LEAP Study?

NEJM title

Are you tired of hearing about the LEAP study yet? It’s a pretty huge deal, but for those who don’t read the New England Journal of Medicine, it can still be a bit confusing. Let's see if we can break it down.

Some History

In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), told parents not to introduce allergenic foods until 12 months (dairy), 24 months (eggs) or 36 months (peanuts, tree nuts, fish). However, by 2008, delayed introduction seemed to be making things worse.

Scientists began wondering if we had it backward. One study found that the risk of the peanut allergy was 10 times higher for Jewish children in the United Kingdom as compared to Jewish children in Israel. These children were genetically very similar, but peanuts are everywhere in the food Israeli infants are given. (Sidenote: other allergies, such as milk, are higher in Israeli children)

How did LEAP “prove” early introduction works

The Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study team found a group of infants identified as high risk for peanut allergy—babies with severe eczema and/or egg allergy. This group of babies has a nearly 20% chance of developing peanut allergy.

Each baby was first tested to see if they were already “sensitized” to peanuts. Half the babies in both the "sensitized" and "not sensitized" groups were then told to “eat six grams of peanuts per week” while the other half were to “avoid peanuts.”

Then they came back when all the babies were 5 years old and checked which ones actually had allergies. The results were striking:

LEAP chart

Nearly all of the babies taking servings of peanuts weekly, even those who were already sensitized to peanuts, had nearly no allergy by age 5.

If your baby has eczema, or an egg allergy, this message is clear. Feed that baby peanuts!

If your baby doesn’t have eczema, the message is still the same. Early and consistent exposure to allergens dramatically reduces the risk of that allergy developing. So do you really have to feed your baby six grams per week, every week? Maybe not that much, but the AAP recommends you do it regularly. And eczema isn’t the only risk factor. Parents with asthma, hay fever, or eczema seem more likely to have babies with allergies. Babies in cities seem more likely to have allergies. Lastly, don’t forget what we saw with the Israeli children vs British ones - population wide early introduction means fewer schools banning peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

How exactly do you do keep up this rigorous exposure, especially with early eaters? You can try our products at Lil Mixins. You can also thin peanut butter and mix it into food or check out these recipes for kid friendly foods with nuts.

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