A new study reveals that changes to food allergy guidelines has led to a 16 percent decrease in peanut allergy among infants.
Introducing peanuts early in a child’s life has been shown to prevent peanut allergy during randomised controlled trials.
About The Research by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
The research, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) also found a significant increase in parents introducing peanut into their babies’ diet since the guideline changes.
International infant feeding guidelines changed in 2016 to recommend introduction of peanut and other allergenic foods before 12 months.
“In the 1990s some guidelines recommended avoiding allergenic foods until age 1-3 years and avoidance of these foods in infancy became widespread,” said MCRI PhD candidate and study lead author Victoria Soriano.
“By 2008, this advice started to be removed based on increasing evidence that delaying allergenic foods was associated with an increased food allergy risk. However, evidence was still insufficient for specific recommendations for what age these foods should be introduced.”
The Study Results
The Melbourne study compared data from the 1,933 infants enrolled in the EarlyNuts study in 2018-2019 to the 5,276 infants recruited in the HealthNuts study across 2007-2011.
The research found the peanut allergy prevalence in 2018-2019 was 2.6 per cent compared to 3.1 per cent in 2007-2011, which amounted to a 16% decrease after accounting for migration and population changes.
In 2018-2019, infants who did not consume peanut until 12 months or later, 4.8% were allergic. Severe reactions to introducing peanut early were uncommon, the data showed.
Peanut consumption by the age of 12 months increased from 28% to 89% in the 10 years to 2019, which may have halted the rise in peanut allergy, the study found.
Australia Has Highest Rates of Food Allergy
Australia has the highest reported rates of childhood food allergy in the world, with about one in 10 infants and one in 20 children up to five years of age being allergic.
The prevalence of allergic diseases and asthma has increased dramatically over the past few decades, affecting an estimated 20% of the population in developed countries, especially children.
The most dramatic increase in food allergy, earlier presentation and increasing persistence of disease was cows’ milk protein allergy with an estimated prevalence of 3%.
Dietary factors have been implicated in the increased risk of allergic diseases and modern dietary changes appear to contribute to pro- inflammatory conditions.
A major challenge in the fight against allergic diseases is the need for preventive measures early in life.
How Can We Prevent Allergies?
The best thing we can do for now to reduce the risk of developing allergies is to follow the recommendations for introduction of allergenic foods, such as peanut and egg, into the diet in infants in the first year of life, avoid exposure to smoking and live a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle.