Giving creamy peanut butter to babies aged 4 to 6 months may cause peanut allergy rates to plummet, scientists say.
There is a clear “window of opportunity” for exposing infants to peanuts and reducing their risk of developing an allergy, researchers have found.
The scientists found that this needed to be done when they were six months old — and even earlier, for babies with eczema, a risk factor for allergies, at four months.
Introducing peanut products into the diets of all infants at six months reduces peanut allergy The study found that this rate was as high as 77% in the entire population.
But waiting until a baby’s first birthday to introduce peanut products resulted in only a 33 percent reduction.
Most peanut allergies show up by the time children are one year old.
According to Allergy UK, peanut allergy affects around 2% (1 in 50) of children in the UK and has been increasing in recent decades.
The study highlights that babies should be developmentally ready to start eating solid foods and should be given smooth peanut butter or a baby-friendly snack — not whole or crushed peanuts.
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The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that the greatest benefit was achieved when targeting the entire population.
Professor Graham Roberts at the University of Southampton, who led the study, said the advice to avoid peanuts “causes understandable parental fear of premature exposure”.
But encouraging parents to expose their children to peanuts could be a “simple, low-cost, safe intervention … that will have tangible benefits for future generations.”
Professor Gideon Lack, of King’s College London, said the research reflected experience in Israel, where peanut allergies were rare when peanut snacks were offered to young children.