A study led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Virtual Annual Meeting last week found that early introduction of peanuts led to a decrease of 16% in the incidence of peanut allergy among infants.
Introducing peanut early in a child’s life has been shown to prevent peanut allergy during randomized controlled trials. But MCRI PhD candidate and study lead author Victoria Soriano said this research was the first to test the approach in homes and to analyze what impact the guideline changes have had on peanut allergies.
In the 1990s some guidelines recommended avoiding allergenic foods until age 1-3 years and avoidance of these foods in infancy became widespread.
By 2008, this advice started to be removed based on increasing evidence that delaying allergenic foods was associated with an increased food allergy risk. However, evidence was still insufficient for specific recommendations for what age these foods should be introduced.
The Melbourne study compared data from the 1,933 infants enrolled in the EarlyNuts study in 2018-2019 to the 5,276 infants recruited in the HealthNuts study across 2007-2011.
The research found the peanut allergy prevalence in 2018-2019 was 2.6% compared to 3.1% in 2007-2011, which amounted to a 16% decrease after accounting for migration and population changes.
In 2018-2019, infants who did not consume peanut until 12 months or later, 4.8% were allergic. Severe reactions to introducing peanut early were uncommon, the data showed.
According to MCRI’s Dr Jennifer Koplin, despite the decrease in peanut allergy, the prevalence overall continued to be high.
Said Dr Koplin:
The safety of early peanut introduction at home is of significant interest to parents as well as health professionals around the world. More research must be done to look closer at these trends to help us understand how well early introduction to peanut works to prevent peanut allergies in real-life situations.