Show Me the Studies: Peanut Allergies

Years ago, scientists interested in the rise of allergies were struck with a strange contradiction. On the one hand, babies exposed to peanuts in their environments had much higher rates of peanut allergies  yet, avoiding peanuts did not stop the rise of allergies.This led to research comparing two groups of children with very different rates of peanut allergies. Jewish children in the North London UK and Jewish children in Tel Aviv Israel. They compared these two groups because their environments are relatively similar in terms of urbanization. Further, the children are genetically fairly similar, which controls for the influence of genes.

Within these two groups, 4,000 children in each location reported back

  • Rates of all allergy, asthma and eczema
  • Rates of peanut allergy
  • Amounts of various peanut and sesame containing foods eaten in the house

UK children had a peanut allergy rate 10x that of Israeli children, and ate almost no peanut foods in their first year. In contrast Israeli children ate about 8g of peanut protein a month in the first year. Interestingly, UK and Israeli children introduced other allergens (egg, dairy, etc) at about the same times, and there wasn’t a big difference in allergy rates.

early consumption graph

The results of this comparison study lead to a pretty clear conclusion: Eating peanuts doesn’t cause an allergy. In fact, the opposite might be true. Ten years later, after performing a massive randomized controlled study called the LEAP study, these researchers turned out to be correct. Eating peanuts early is hugely protective for babies.

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