Introducing peanuts during infant years reduces allergy risk by 71%, new study finds

Introducing peanuts during infant years reduces allergy risk by 71%, new study finds

  • 03 June 2024
  • News
  • Nuts and Peanuts
  • Research

Peanut allergy, which affects more than 1 in 50 children in the UK, is one of the most common food allergies and usually begins early in life. However, recent research has shown that feeding children peanut products from infancy to age 5 can cut the rate of peanut allergies in their teenage years by 71%.

The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and found that early peanut introduction can prevent allergies long-term, even if peanut eating decreases after age 5. 

Professor Gideon Lack, who is the study chair and the Head of the Children’s Allergy Service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This simple intervention will make a remarkable difference to future generations and see peanut allergies plummet, preventing more than 100,000 new cases of peanut allergy every year worldwide.”

The results come from the LEAP-Trio study, which followed on from the original LEAP clinical trial. The original trial included 600 infants aged 4-6 months who were at higher risk of developing a peanut allergy due to severe eczema, egg allergy, or both. During the trial, researchers divided the infants into two groups: one group consumed peanut-containing foods, while the other group avoided them until they reached 5 years of age. Researchers compared the two groups and found that eating peanuts early in life cut the risk of peanut allergy by 81%.

The Leap-Trio study followed 508 of these children to an average age of 13. During this time, they were free to eat or avoid peanuts. The study found that children who avoided peanuts early on were much more likely to develop a peanut allergy by age 12, compared to those who ate peanuts from an early age. There was a 71% drop in peanut allergies, which confirms that eating peanuts early on in life protects individuals, even without regular peanut eating after the age of 5.

Professor George Du Toit, Co-Lead Investigator from King’s College London said: “This is a safe and highly effective intervention which can be implemented as early as 4 months of age. The infant needs to be developmentally ready to start weaning and peanut should be introduced as a soft pureed paste or as peanut puffs.”

For more details and resources on managing peanut allergies and weaning infants, you can see our factsheets and the BSACI weaning leaflet.

Note that infants and small children should never be given whole peanuts due to the risk of choking.