Eating peanut at an early age prevents peanut allergy
The Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study, led by Professor Gideon Lack (Head of Paediatric Allergy Service) and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows for the first time that eating peanuts is an effective way to prevent food allergy.
The study included 640 children aged 4-11 months from Evelina London Children’s Hospital who were considered at high risk of developing peanut allergy.
To determine whether eating or avoiding peanut is the most effective means of preventing peanut allergy, half of the children were asked to eat peanut foods three or more times each week, and the other half avoided eating peanut until they were five-years-old.
Remarkably, less than 1% of children who consumed peanut as per study protocol and completed the study developed peanut allergy by five-years-old, while 17.3% in the group that avoided peanuts developed the allergy.
This represents a greater than 80% reduction in the prevalence of peanut allergy. Importantly, the early introduction of peanut foods was found to be safe and well tolerated. None of the infants were fed whole peanuts, as they carry a risk of choking.
The study therefore showed that early, sustained consumption of peanut is safe and associated with a significant decrease in the development of peanut allergy in high-risk infants. Deliberate avoidance of peanut in the first year of life is consequently brought into question as a means to prevent allergy.
Watch this short film from King’s College London about the groundbreaking findings.
The research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research- Biomedical Research Centre at Guy's and St Thomas' and King's College London.