New research suggests that introducing tiny tastes of smooth peanut butter to young babies between four and six months old could dramatically reduce peanut allergies. Experts say that there is a crucial opportunity during weaning to cut allergy cases by up to 77% and that the government’s current advice on weaning needs to change. In the past, parents were advised to avoid foods that can trigger allergies during early childhood, and at one point, families were told to avoid peanuts until their child was three years old. However, evidence over the last 15 years has turned that on its head.
Instead, the research suggests that eating peanuts while the immune system is still developing and learning to recognize friend from foe can reduce allergic reactions. Experts believe that it also means the body’s first experience with peanut is in the tummy, where it is more likely to be recognized as food than on the skin, where it may be more likely to be treated as a threat. Countries like Israel, where peanut snacks are common in early life, have much lower rates of allergy.
Peanut allergy is now so common that some schools have banned the ingredient, as even a small amount of peanut can lead to a severe and life-threatening immune reaction. This new research offers hope that introducing babies to peanut butter early on can help reduce the prevalence of this allergy. For some, the results could be life-changing, as those with peanut allergies must be constantly vigilant about avoiding the allergen.
The study highlights the importance of understanding how the immune system works and developing strategies to prevent allergies before they develop. For families with a history of allergies, introducing peanut butter to their babies could be an important way to reduce the risk of allergies. Before giving allergenic foods to babies, especially those who are more likely to have allergies, it is important to talk to a pediatrician or allergist.
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