Giving small amounts of peanut butter to babies between the ages of 4 and 6 months can lead to a 77% reduction in cases of allergy to this food in the population, points out a new study.
The authors of the research state that, given this evidence, the recommendation of health authorities that a child do not eat until about six months should be changed.
Experts warn, however, that whole or chopped peanuts pose a choking hazard and should not be given to children under 5 years old.
Current guidance from the NHS, the United Kingdom’s public health service, states that crushed, ground or buttered peanuts can be introduced into infant food from 6 months.
A baby is ready for the first solid food if he can sit up, keep his head steady, has the eye, hand, and mouth coordination to be able to look at the food, pick it up and put it in his mouth, and swallow the food instead. to spit it back.
Why do food allergies happen?
In Brazil, there are no official statistics on food allergy, but the Brazilian Association of Allergy and Immunology states that the prevalence is similar to that recorded in the international literature, which shows that it affects about 8% of children aged up to 2 years and 2% of adults.
Food allergies are the result of our immune system mistaking something harmless for a serious threat.
For some people, even a small amount of peanuts can lead to an immune reaction so overwhelming that it could be life threatening.
There was longstanding advice to avoid foods that can trigger allergies during early childhood and for families to avoid peanuts until children reach age 3.
However, evidence over the past 15 years has turned this understanding on its head.
Instead, eating peanuts while the immune system is still developing may reduce allergic reactions, experts say.
This also means that the body’s first experience with peanuts occurs in the belly, where it is likely to be recognized as food, rather than the skin, where it is likely to be treated as a threat.
In Israel, where peanut snacks are common early in life, allergy rates are much lower, for example.
Other studies have suggested that early introduction of other foods linked to allergies – such as eggs, milk and wheat – also reduces allergies.
The most recent research, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, calculated when is the best time to start introducing peanut-containing foods.
The analysis was conducted by the University of Southampton, King’s College London and the research arm of the NHS.
They found that the critical period is between 4 and 6 months, during which the occurrence of allergy can be reduced by 77%.
Delaying the introduction of peanut-based foods until a child is 1 year old would reduce allergy cases by 33%, according to research.
For babies with eczema, which is a risk factor for allergies, researchers recommend starting at 4 months — as long as baby is ready for solid foods.
They say parents should start by offering small amounts of fruit or vegetables.
Then, when the baby is comfortable, about three heaping teaspoons of peanut butter a week should be introduced and maintained for years.
Peanut butter can be given with the breast milk.
Graham Roberts, a professor at the University of Southampton, said decades of advice to avoid peanuts “understandably led to parents’ fear” of giving peanuts to children and changing the rules led to a great deal of confusion among both doctors and parents.
However, he stated that this would be a “simple, low-cost and safe intervention” that “would bring great benefits to future generations”.
This text was originally published here.
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