A bit of conventional wisdom that many parents adhere to is no peanuts before the age of three. This is supposedly to keep them from developing a peanut allergy, and honestly, it’s smart to be concerned about that. Food allergies are increasing, and they’re sometimes deadly. But, uh, it turns out that maybe kids should be scarfing those legumes, and it’s not the Peanut Board recommending this… it’s actual doctors doing real research.
The study, just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, sorted infants into two categories; those who had no reaction to peanuts, and those who did. Leaving aside the already potentially allergic kids as a control, the study put some of them on the non-exposure regimen and the rest on an early exposure.
The results? The kids exposed early turned out to have a far lower incidence of allergy development, as in 3.2 percent compared to 17.2 percent developing an allergy in the non-exposure group by the age of five. So, yeah. That’s bad.
There are a few important points to be aware of. First off, it’s not clear if the kids regularly exposed to peanuts will develop an allergy if they stop consuming them, which is in the process of being tested right now. It’s also not clear whether this applies solely to peanuts or to other allergies, as well. Nor is this a silver bullet that exposing a kid to peanuts will prevent a peanut allergy.
Also at issue is… well, why the hell peanut allergies are increasing in the first place. They’re steadily rising across the world, and better diagnosis can’t count for all of it. So, figuring out how allergies are more likely to develop is a crucial first step.
The good news is that peanut allergies are still relatively rare, so kids are mostly safe. Still, parents should keep an eye on what’s unfolding here. One suspects allergy research is just getting started.