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Study: Peanut Consumption In Infancy Helps Prevent Peanut Allergy 243

Mr D from 63 writes: According to a report from the Associated Press, "For years, parents of babies who seem likely to develop a peanut allergy have gone to extremes to keep them away from peanut-based foods. Now a major study suggests that is exactly the wrong thing to do. Here's the published paper in the New England Journal of Medicine. It's interesting how this peanut allergy fear is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The situation involves a complete misconception of risk by many parents, and probably it doesn't stop at peanuts. Is there a bigger underlying problem here?
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Study: Peanut Consumption In Infancy Helps Prevent Peanut Allergy

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  • I refute (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Thagg ( 9904 )

    My mom ate a lot of peanuts when I was a few months old, and I almost died of peanut allergy. I question this result.

    55 years later, I'm still deathly allergic to them. It does add some adventure to life.

    • by HBI ( 604924 )

      You didn't eat them, though, did you? That's what the paper is asserting - consumption is right in the title.

      • by Thagg ( 9904 )

        If you read further, they talk about restrictions on mothers eating while lactating as well.

      • No they are not asserting that dumb-ass.

        FTFA: A big warning, though: The babies in the study were checked to make sure they didn't already have a peanut allergy before they were fed foods that included peanuts, so parents of babies thought to be at risk for an allergy should not try this on their own.

        "Before you even start any kind of introduction these children need to be skin-tested" to prevent life-threatening reactions, said Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, an allergy specialist at the University of Texas S
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          My first kid's first food was peanut butter. We lived 3 minutes from the hospital at the time, and yes, I had the keys on me at the time. But we weren't concerned enough to not do it. It's still his favorite food. And one of the best first-foods for a kid. Smooth, and tasty.
        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Actually, in carefully monitored testing, kids with peanut allergies can build significant tolerance to peanuts by consuming tiny but growing amounts.

          Ideally, the mother should eat peanuts while still carrying the baby. Evidence suggests that it prevents peanut allergy.

    • Re:I refute (Score:4, Informative)

      by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @03:23PM (#49121439) Homepage

      And if she'd eaten them when you were in the womb, you'd have had her contaminated blood, and all her immune response (i.e. zero) to it.

      And if you'd been given them to eat, it would have been different too.

      But nobody is saying that there aren't the 1% who might be allergic to peanut. But, unless and until you have a reaction, why avoid them? That's the point. Avoiding them can provoke an immune reaction to a "foreign" agent.

      Instead of the 1% having a visible allergic reaction, we have the 50% who say they are "intolerant" to a major food group and/or make themselves allergic by avoiding it altogether. And then guess what reaction their children have, and so on.

      Everything in moderation. Don't shove peanuts down your newborn's face, but don't avoid them in pregnancy either.

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )

        And if she'd eaten them when you were in the womb, you'd have had her contaminated blood

        Can peanut proteins really pass through the placental barrier ?

        • Considering the mother's blood is circulating through the fetus and she is helping to remove its waste product, everything the mother eats/drinks/smokes the fetus also gets.

          • by mrdogi ( 82975 )

            Um, no. I'm pretty sure the mother's blood is circulating through the biological equivalent of a heat exchange with the fetus's blood. A nutrient exchange if you will. Baby's blood picks up nutrients from mom's blood, drops off some waste in the blood stream back to mom.

            For your viewing pleasure [wikimedia.org]

            • Re:I refute (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Whorhay ( 1319089 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @04:51PM (#49122185)

              I don't know if protiens from peanuts are passed through to the fetus or not. But our pediatrician did say that such protiens do make it into the breast milk. Which makes me wonder if there has been any correlation shown between allergies and breastfeeding, either positive or negative.

    • Re:I refute (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @03:30PM (#49121503) Homepage Journal

      Let me explain this with science.
      You have two groups.
      One that is exposed to peanuts as infants.
      One that is not.
      Fewer children in the exposed group developed peanut allergies.
      In other words SOME peanut allergies can be prevented by early exposure.

      Your argument is the same as. "My uncle never smoked a day in his life and died of lung cancer. Smoking does not cause lung cancer".

      • Of course, how do you double blind that away from Group 1 being children of parents who eat peanuts, and are without the allergy? And

      • Your argument is the same as. "My uncle never smoked a day in his life and died of lung cancer. Smoking does not cause lung cancer". I know smokers who really do believe that.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by PRMan ( 959735 )

        Let me explain how your uncontrolled science is flawed:

        One that is exposed to peanuts as infants and where the breastfeeding percentage is nearly 100% (I assume you are talking about Africa or somewhere here)

        One that is not and where the breastfeeding percentage is only 77% (the USA for example)

    • They said that it lowers the risk, not that it eliminates it. This is why they do studies instead of asking Slashdotters for anecdotes.

      • by beanpoppa ( 1305757 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @10:33PM (#49124573)
        There was a study done comparing Israeli Jews to European and North American Jews, with the premise being that parents in North America and Europe have been directed to withhold peanuts from babies/toddlers, while this practice is not in place in Israel. You have a genetically similar pool of Jews that migrated to the 3 different regions in the last 100 years. Jewish children in Israel have an allergic rate 10% that of Jewish children in Europe and NA. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu... [nih.gov]
    • Re:I refute (Score:4, Insightful)

      by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @03:44PM (#49121631)

      You can't refute averages by a single counter example.

    • Some percentage of kids in either group developed peanut allergies by age 5, regardless of treatment group. No one, not even the authors, is suggesting that ALL peanut allergies are the result of avoidance. Only that avoidance increases the likelihood that a child will develop peanut allergies by age 5. Your anecdote, while important to YOU, is not data and should not be construed as countervailing evidence since your experience and the results of the study are not mutually exclusive. That is even before yo
  • when she was only about six months old.

    She loved it, I had never heard you weren't supposed to give it to babies, and now that she's 12 she still likes it. I can can get on-board with this theory.

    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      Ditto.

      She's 23 and going strong.

    • by margeman2k3 ( 1933034 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @03:34PM (#49121543)
      Honey can contain clostridium botulinum spores which are fatally toxic to babies (the spores are harmless to adults). Not giving babies honey is less a case of "it might cause some side effects later in life" and more a case of "it might kill them tomorrow".
      • This is the reason all honey containers have a warning printed on them, saying "Don't Feed to Kids Under 1 Year Old." I guess pecosdave didn't read the label.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @03:38PM (#49121565)

      Honey is different as it can cause botulism poisoning in infants. It's not an allergen, but rather often harbors an actual amount of bacteria. In adults and children, the bacteria load is not harmful as the body can easily deal with it. In infants, the body reacts differently to botulism and it can occasionally kill them.

      http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/botulism.html

      That's why you were given the butt chewing. It's a very different situation to peanuts. Peanuts would be unsafe if they were covered in the same bacteria that honey harbors.

      • Honey is different as it can cause botulism poisoning in infants. It's not an allergen, but rather often harbors an actual amount of bacteria. In adults and children, the bacteria load is not harmful as the body can easily deal with it. In infants, the body reacts differently to botulism and it can occasionally kill them.

        http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/botulism.html

        That's why you were given the butt chewing. It's a very different situation to peanuts. Peanuts would be unsafe if they were covered in the same bacteria that honey harbors.

        If I had mod points, I'd vote you up. My son is five months old, cutting his first teeth, and getting his first taste of real food. The pediatricians stressed the dangers of bacteria which may be present in some batches of uncooked honey. They also say to hold off on cow's milk until a year old for different reasons.

        • by dwye ( 1127395 )

          Why hold off on cow's milk? Granted that human breast milk is better for human children, but lots of us were raised on cow's milk (frex, I was adopted as an infant) and there did not seem to be a plague stalking us other than polio, for which they were just coming out with the Sabin and Salk vaccines. UNPASTEURIZED milk, I could understand, but it is illegal to buy that in the USA, except commercially to pasteurize and resell.

          • Why hold off on cow's milk? Granted that human breast milk is better for human children, but lots of us were raised on cow's milk (frex, I was adopted as an infant) and there did not seem to be a plague stalking us other than polio, for which they were just coming out with the Sabin and Salk vaccines. UNPASTEURIZED milk, I could understand, but it is illegal to buy that in the USA, except commercially to pasteurize and resell.

            Why? Because people are idiots.
            There really is no other reason.

          • If you can remember going to school with polio victims we must be in the same age bracket, there's no plague but I did meet a 5yo in the 80's who had mild retardation due to an allergy to cows milk, never met a child that was allergic to nuts. A child gets all the antibodies it's going to get in the first few feeds from mum, after that it's just food. These days too many nurses subscribe to the dogma that if you stop breastfeeding at 3-6 months you're a bad mother, because..???

            Rather than berating young
    • by Morpeth ( 577066 )

      Actually there IS some justification on holding off on honey until 12 months, floppy baby syndrome is a real thing. Not saying you did anything wrong, but that's one that does have some scientific reasoning behind it (not just some 'I read it on Natural News blog' kind of pseudoscience)

      http://pediatric-medical.blogs... [blogspot.com]

    • This has nothing to do with allergies. You don't feed babies honey to avoid the very rare cases where it actually causes immediate problems. After a year it is perfectly fine.
      It's like some of the things that are excluded while being pregnant (cats, game meat,...), just a precaution for the possible rare, but severe consequences of an unwanted contamination.

      • by dwye ( 1127395 )

        If avoiding game meat is so necessary, how did our species make it through the old stone age? Maybe avoiding rare meat in general and especially downer does or old roadkill, but I cannot see how cooking well done doesn't kill the germs in anything.

    • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @03:43PM (#49121621)

      Guys, the honey-botulism thing is like eggs-salmonella. Not every egg has salmonella, and if you eat the clean ones raw, you'll be fine. Not all honey has C.Botulinum spores (which cause it), but if you give some that is contaminated to a young child, they will be badly affected because their gut bacteria hasn't had time to develop--it's a matter of growth, not resistance through exposure. You played the odds and won. Most kids that eat honey will be fine and most batches aren't contaminated. Some of them will get a bad batch and will be less fortunate.

      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        Sounds like honey could be a prime candidate for irradiation.

        • by Sowelu ( 713889 )

          Irradiation isn't 100% at inactivating C.Botulinum. Neither is heat pasteurization (to the level that your honey is still, well, honey). There's no guaranteed safe way of making honey edible for infants.

          • by itzly ( 3699663 )

            Honey is very close to pure sugar, anyway. It provides energy, but not a lot of building materials for the infant body. There's no good reason to feed it to infants.

          • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu... [nih.gov] "Honey was also spiked with Cl. botulinum at up to 5000 spores per 50 g honey, which is the upper limit of natural contamination. The sterilizing dose in this case was 18 kGy."
        • Irradiation would be good for many things (I did see the reply saying it isn't 100% in this case).

          People are too afraid of "radiation" though.. (Yet use a microwave oven every day.. which I think is unjustly not at pretty much the top of modern conveniences.)

    • by markus ( 2264 )

      The advice against feeding honey to babies is not because of allergies, but because there is an -- admittedly small -- risk of it being contaminated. A baby's immune system isn't sufficiently mature yet, and this type of infection is potentially fatal.

      So, yes, most parents are probably not going to notice anything bad about giving honey to their little ones. But as there is no particular unique benefit to eating honey, even the minor risk is worthwhile avoiding. This is the same reason, why pregnant women a

    • Honey has botulism in it. Sometimes.

      • Botulism is an illness, not a thing, so that's a bit like saying cigarettes have lung cancer in them.

        Metaphorically correct, but the kind of thing a dedicated pedant would feel compelled to respond to.

        Ah...

  • Doctors are telling us to keep our children away from peanuts, eggs, and various other foods until two years of age. Then we're supposed to introduce them one at a time, with a few weeks between to monitor results & possible outbreaks. Even if no one in the family has any such allergies.

    I'm sure it's not just me, almost every friend across the US with kids in our approximate age range have talked about the same things. I wonder if the people who write this stuff are paying attention...

    • Doctors are telling us to keep our children away from peanuts, eggs, and various other foods until two years of age. Then we're supposed to introduce them one at a time, with a few weeks between to monitor results & possible outbreaks. Even if no one in the family has any such allergies.

      I'm sure it's not just me, almost every friend across the US with kids in our approximate age range have talked about the same things. I wonder if the people who write this stuff are paying attention...

      I have a five month old son, so I've been paying attention to this kind of thing. I've noticed that doctors' recommendations change every few years. My mom's generation was told to introduce rice cereal at six weeks, but now the recommendation is to start at about 6 months. We were also told to introduce at most one new food every three days so that if an allergy is discovered it would be easier to identify the cause.

      Here is an exert from a 2008 statement from the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) :

      Although solid foods should not be introduced before 4 to 6 months of age, there is no current convincing evidence that delaying their introduction beyond this period has a significant protective effect on the development of atopic disease regardless of whether infants are fed cow milk protein formula or human milk. This includes delaying the introduction of foods that are considered to be highly allergic, such as fish, eggs, and foods containing peanut protein.(View Report [aappublications.org])

      Most

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Yes, the medical community jumped on yet another bandwagon with predictably bad results. In the UK, studies have shown that doctors warning mothers to treat peanuts like radioactive waste have tripled the rate of serious peanut allergies.

      What I wonder is if the people giving the crappy advice are paying attention.

      It seems we knew a lot more about allergies and how to manage them in the '60s than we do today.

    • by Reapy ( 688651 )

      We waited a while to introduce our oldest to peanut butter, my wife was pretty scared about it because she had a friend growing up with a peanut allergy. It just kinda got to the point where we didn't have peanut butter in the house anyway, it just wasn't a staple, not out of any real thought to specifically avoid it.

      There is no history of food allergies in either family, though my side does have some heavy animal allergies. We finally gave him a spoonful of peanut butter and he broke out in hives and then

  • Exposure? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by danomatika ( 1977210 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @03:24PM (#49121447)

    So responsibly exposing kids to risks early in life helps them deal with those same risks later on? Who would have thought ...

  • PlumpyNut (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Major Blud ( 789630 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @03:26PM (#49121467) Homepage

    Back in 2007, Anderson Cooper asked a pediatrician if PlumpyNut (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumpy%27nut) was affecting people in developing countries suffering from malnutrition with peanut allergies. The Dr. said "We just don't see it. In developing countries food allergy is not nearly the problem that it is in industrialized countries." Sounds like this study backs up that claim.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-... [cbsnews.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The finding backs up the hygiene hypothesis:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hygiene_hypothesis

      • by PRMan ( 959735 )
        And the breastfeeding hypothesis, since they are (and always have been) nearly 100% and we have recently rebounded from 30% to 77%.
  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock@@@poetic...com> on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @03:41PM (#49121601)

    "SUNDAY, Feb. 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A wearable patch that safely and gradually exposes the body to small amounts of peanut allergen appears effective in easing the allergy, an early new study shows."

    http://health.usnews.com/healt... [usnews.com]

    • by swell ( 195815 )

      - Sorry, that date is a typo - the news is two days old.
      US News must be struggling like other print publishers.

  • Thinking of my nephew. He used to eat a lot of peanuts, then - as a teenager - he ramped that up and pretty much overdosed.
    He is in his mid 20's now and allergic to them. Too much of a good thing and all that.

    • Its almost seems like problems arise no matter which type of extremist you are. If only there were some other way....

  • The bigger question is . . .

    How long is it going to be until there is a mandatory "nut allergy vaccine" in the form of a required patch / injection of peanut dust in order to allow nut-allergic children to go to school?

    If nut-allergies are shown to be preventable in the same way as measles, etc., why should a school have to be completely on edge about a child going into shock because some other child brought a sandwich to lunch? The economic benefits alone of doing away with the nonsense of nut separation i

    • Isn't it a form of child abuse to allow your child to live with a curable allergy that could kill them in a moment's notice?

      Well, what are you supposed to do, kill them? Anyway, you can immunize them against instant death by peanut just by feeding them minuscule amounts to start with, and ramping up over an incredibly long time. Eventually, they'll get to the point where they can eat a peanut or two without even needing an epipen, let alone immediate medical care. That's probably enough to keep them alive, albeit not enough to permit them to enjoy the sweet, sweet goodness of peanut sauce.

  • Bamba (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EnsilZah ( 575600 ) <{EnsilZah} {at} {Gmail.com}> on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @04:39PM (#49122095)

    There's a popular snack in Israel called Bamba, which consists of puffed corn coated with peanut butter.
    Pretty much everyone eats it, and it's pretty common for parents to feed it to children as soon as they can handle solid food.

    So I was wondering how that affects the allergy rate for Israelis.
    And apparently a study shows that when comparing Israelis to UK Jews of a similar background, the Israelis had a tenth of the peanut allergy rate compared to the UK group.

    • by Sun ( 104778 )

      Not only does it affect the peanut allergies in Israel (less than 1%), this snack was, in fact, the tirgger that started this particular research.

      The story according to the local papers is that the researcher was in a conference in Israel, and, as usual, asked who here has a child that is allergic to peanuts. Unusually, however, hardly anyone raised their hands. That triggered discovery of Bamba.

      In fact, during the research, Bamba is what they fed the non-control group children.

      Shachar

  • parents of babies who seem likely to develop a peanut allergy

    How does one identify a baby who "seems" likely to develop a peanut allergy?

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