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Could it possible that a popular junk food could hold the key to preventing certain food allergies? According to researchers in the UK, it may. Apparently kids in Israel who eat “Bamba,” a popular peanut-based snack food there, have a significantly lower incidence of peanut allergies when as they grow.
The British researchers conducted a study called LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut allergy) and focused on about 600 youngsters. Read on for details of the study and results.
Can Food Allergies Be Prevented?
A couple recent studies indicate that it’s possible, and new guidance is expected later this year.
In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics directed parents to delay feeding their babies foods linked with allergies, such as milk, eggs and peanuts, until ages 1, 2 and 3 respectively. A decade later, the percentage of children with food allergies had risen by some 50 percent, and numerous studies have caused the group to pull back from the recommendation. Now, in the wake of new research suggesting that an early introduction to peanuts might actually be protective, the AAP, the National Institutes of Health and allergy research groups are on the verge of offering new guidance.
The new study, conducted by researchers in the UK and known as “LEAP” (for “learning early about peanut allergy”), was inspired by the observation that Israeli children, who regularly eat Bamba, a snack containing peanut butter produced in Israel, have fewer peanut allergies than children in the UK. Researchers divided 617 infants with a high risk of developing a peanut allergy into two groups, assigning one to avoid peanuts and the other to eat small quantities of Bamba starting between 4 and 11 months old until they turned 5. The group that ate peanuts was 86 percent less likely to develop an allergy.
The study’s significance lies in its randomized, controlled nature, says David Fleischer, an allergist at Children’s Hospital Colorado who is part of the committee creating the new guidelines. He expects them to be released by year-end. The reality is that the vast majority of kids won’t get a food allergy, says Robert Wood, chief of allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. But there are some 150 to 200 fatal food reactions in children each year, so knowing they could potentially lower the risk of an allergy should relieve parents.