Feeding peanuts to young children can reduce allergy risk: Study

May 28, 2024

Children who consume peanut products in the first five years of their lives are less likely to develop a peanut allergy, even as they approach early adolescence, according to a study published Tuesday.

The new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), is a follow-up to an earlier study that showed a strong link between early exposure to peanuts — from age four to six months until age 5 years — and a lower risk of developing a peanut allergy. Researchers compared the prevalence of peanut allergies in the peanut exposure group to a group that avoided peanut consumption over the same period of time.

The latest study shows that the tolerance developed from early exposure to peanuts lasts even when the study participants reach 13 years old. Of the 640 participants in the original study, 497 were included in the follow-up study, and peanut allergies remained significantly more prevalent among the original group that avoided peanuts than among the group that consumed peanuts from infancy.

In the group that avoided early peanut consumption, 38 of 246 participants (15.4 percent) had a peanut allergy. Among those in the other group that consumed peanuts from infancy, 11 of 251 participants (4.4 percent) had peanut allergies at age 13.

The participants were allowed to consume peanuts as they wished, from age 5 to age 13, with participants in both groups reporting avoiding peanuts for prolonged periods.

Researchers now say that it’s important for parents to feed their children peanut products from the age of 6 months, if they don’t have eczema, and from the age of four months, if they do have eczema.

Allergies to peanuts have been on the rise in recent years, especially among children. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, peanut allergies in children increased 21 percent from 2010 to 2017, and nearly 2.5 percent of U.S. children, as of the 2017 study, may have an allergy to peanuts.