Allergy UK welcomes new research into the prevention of peanut allergy

New research into the prevention of food allergies led by Prof Graham Roberts at Southampton University has found that the early introduction of peanuts into an infant’s diet reduces the risk of developing a peanut allergy in high-risk infants, especially those with severe eczema.

The recommendation from this research is that all infants should start eating peanut products such as peanut butter or puffs by 6 months of age, and infants with eczema, especially severe eczema, should ideally have peanut products introduced from 4 months of age, where developmentally ready.

Margaret Kelman, Acting Head of Clinical Services for Allergy UK, explains, ‘For expectant parents and parents of young infants, there will hopefully be a change in advice around weaning, especially for infants who are considered at high risk of allergy. For those considering the introduction of peanut products at around four months, we believe it is important to do so under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Notwithstanding, this latest research supports previous studies which show that adopting this practice could potentially lead to the reduction in the incidence of peanut allergy among the food allergic population.’

Peanut allergy affects between 1-2% of children in the UK and is a common cause of food allergy. It tends to be persistent, and only approximately 1 in 5 children with peanut allergy will outgrow their allergy. It often develops in early childhood but occasionally can develop in later life. Infants with eczema and/or egg allergy are more likely to develop peanut allergy.  The impact of living with a food allergy can be far-reaching for both the individual and their families.  For some, it also carries the risk of a severe allergic reaction – anaphylaxis – which can be life-threatening.

The findings of the research by Prof Roberts found that there was an estimated 77% reduction in peanut allergy incidence when peanut was introduced to the diet of all infants at 4 months with eczema and at 6 months without eczema. The researchers found that this estimated reduction in peanut allergy diminished with every month of delayed introduction. So if the introduction of peanut products was delayed to 12 months, the risk of developing peanut allergy in high-risk infants, e.g. infants with severe eczema was increased.

The study took data from previous studies, including enquiring about tolerance (EAT), Learning early about peanut allergy (LEAP) and peanut allergy sensitisation (PAS) to inform the recommendations.