Key funder of groundbreaking research on early peanut introduction seeks to slow the recent rise in food allergy prevalence
McLean, Va. (October 15, 2020) – Today, FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), the world’s leading non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and the largest private funder of food allergy research, is launching the Start Eating Early Diet (SEED) study in partnership with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Massachusetts General Hospital, and University of Chicago Medicine. Thanks to the generosity of the Kolchinsky family, FARE has received a $2M commitment for this effort, with $1.5M directly linked to a matching donation.
SEED is grounded in the success of the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study that was funded in part by FARE and published in 2015. LEAP found that for infants whose eczema and/or egg allergy put them at elevated risk for peanut allergy, introducing peanut foods early and often reduced their likelihood of developing peanut allergy by more than 80 percent. The SEED study will explore the benefits of early introduction to multiple allergenic foods (specifically peanut, egg, dairy, cashew, soy, almond and sesame) in a more diverse sample of infants.
“The possibility that all food allergies might be preventable has been the great hope of those in the food allergy field,” said Peter Kolchinsky, PhD, who, with his wife Anna, established a $2 million matching grant fund for SEED. “The SEED study stands to forever change the way parents are guided by physicians and food companies to feed their children, bending the curve on what’s been a growing yet surprisingly silent pandemic of anxiety. Anna and I decided to fund SEED as parents of a child with food allergies who know what it’s like to agonize over the well-being of our child every time she eats out of our sight.”
Following the LEAP study’s publication, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and American Academy of Pediatrics revised their food introduction guidelines to encourage early peanut introduction for infants at higher risk of peanut allergy. However, only 30 percent of U.S. pediatricians report fully following these updated peanut introduction guidelines according to a recent study in JAMA Network Open. An NIAID-supported grant, Intervention to Reduce Early Peanut Allergy in Children (iREACH) at Northwestern and Lurie Children’s, is working to change this. Additional research suggesting that earlier introduction of other allergenic foods may lower food allergy prevalence has been less conclusive, reflecting the difficulties parents encounter when introducing multiple allergenic foods to infants.
Building upon the strengths of iREACH, SEED will investigate whether feeding these multiple allergenic foods to infants aged 4-7 months can reduce their risk for developing food allergies. SEED strategies will include outreach to educate new parents through Baby’s First presented by FARE and targeted training for pediatricians. SEED findings might also underpin advocacy for greater access to these allergenic proteins through federal feeding programs and inform the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“With the SEED program, FARE continues its pioneering role in supporting early allergen introduction,” said Lisa Gable, chief executive officer of FARE. “Childhood peanut and tree nut allergies have tripled in only a decade. Food allergy is a life-changing and potentially life-threatening disease, and its skyrocketing prevalence is a public health crisis. Through clinical research plus targeted education and advocacy, SEED will generate vital insights on early introduction of multiple food allergens and communicate food allergy prevention strategies to parents and pediatricians.”
To address the challenges limiting previous studies, SEED will assess attitudes, barriers, and needs relating to the early introduction of allergenic foods through a national survey. A racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of infants will be recruited. Age-appropriate foods and recipes will be provided to infant caregivers to ensure that cost and access do not limit participation. In addition to babies at average risk of food allergy, high-risk infants with eczema will be enrolled in sufficient numbers to precisely evaluate the effectiveness of systematic feeding of multiple allergenic foods for allergy prevention.
“Understanding whether we can reduce the incidence of other top food allergies similar to peanut by introducing them individually and early to diverse infants is critical,” explained the study’s principal investigator, Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a clinical attending at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “SEED is a comprehensive approach that combines clinical research with education and advocacy to advance food allergy prevention on multiple fronts.” Dr. Gupta, who also serves as FARE’s chief medical advisor for public health, was among the featured speakers at the 2020 Contains: Courage® Research Retreat, a virtual conference held last month.
For general inquiries, please call 703-485-6551.
FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) is the world’s leading non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and the largest private funder of food allergy research. Our mission is to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies and to provide them hope through the promise of new treatments. FARE is transforming the future of food allergy through innovative initiatives that will lead to increased awareness, new and improved treatments and prevention strategies, effective policies and legislation and novel approaches to managing the disease. To learn more about FARE, visit our Living Teal™ YouTube channel, or www.foodallergy.org.