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Best way to keep infants from developing a peanut allergy? Give them peanuts, study says
Parents, be advised. The best way to keep your child from developing a peanut allergy is to wait for it give them peanuts. - photo by Jessica Ivins
Parents, be advised. The best way to keep your child from developing a peanut allergy is to wait for it give them peanuts.

While it may sound counterintuitive, the results of a new National Institutes of Health clinical trial suggest that introducing peanuts into infants' diets drastically reduces their odds of being diagnosed with an allergy later on.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 640 infants with severe eczema, egg allergy or both all symptoms that put them at high risk for developing a peanut allergy. The children were between the ages of 4 and 11 months at the beginning of the trial.

The infants were randomly assigned into two groups. One group avoided peanuts altogether, while the other received at least 5 grams of peanut protein a week until they reached age 5. Throughout the trial, the children went in for regular checkups and were monitored closely, researchers said.

At the end of the trial, the children were assessed. Researchers found a whopping 81 percent reduction in peanut allergy diagnoses in the children whod been exposed to peanuts from infancy.

While recent studies showed no benefit from allergen avoidance, the LEAP study is the first to show that early introduction of dietary peanuts is actually beneficial and identifies an effective approach to manage a serious public health problem, said Daniel Rotrosen, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a release.

The American Academy of Pediatrics seems to be taking the results seriously, issuing a statement in support of the findings. Physicians in both the U.S. and Europe are currently developing formal guidelines on what and how much to feed infants, the Academy reported.

The AAP suggests feeding infants creamy peanut butter, since crunchy peanut butter can present a choking risk. By age 4, children can be introduced to whole peanuts, experts said.

Five percent of children in the U.S. suffer from a peanut allergy putting the U.S. at the top of the world in that category. That number is what makes the results of this trial so significant, researchers said.

Food allergies are a growing concern, not just in the United States but around the world. For a study to show a benefit of this magnitude in the prevention of peanut allergy is without precedent, said NIAID director Anthony Fauci. The results have the potential to transform how we approach food allergy prevention.