Go ahead and feed your babies eggs and food containing peanuts. That just might help them avoid developing allergies to those foods later on. That's the latest advice from researchers studying food allergies. It also contradicts the advice parents have been given for nearly two decades.
In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warned parents to not give eggs to their children until they were 2, or peanuts until 3 if their kids were at high risk for allergies due to family history. Although many parents followed this advice, between 1999 and 2009 food allergies in the U.S. nearly doubled. It's not completely clear if the advice was to blame, but the AAP is changing its position on peanuts.
Now, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says introducing eggs as well as peanuts into babies' diets early on may actually prevent food allergies. In the meta-analysis, researchers from Imperial College London looked at 146 past studies involving more than 200,000 children and pooled all of the data. The results were startling. Infants who were fed some egg between 4 and 6 months of age reduced their risk of developing an egg allergy by 40 percent, while babies who ate peanut between 4 and 11 months were 70 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy than those who first ate peanuts when they were older.
Before you start spooning up the peanut butter and scrambling eggs, the study's authors urge caution. The study samples were small, they note, and they didn't look at factors such as the rate of allergic reactions after infants were fed these foods. Still, it's reason for hope.
Food allergies affect one in every 13 kids in the U.S. today, or about two per classroom. Eight foods are behind 90 percent of all allergic reactions: eggs, peanuts, milk, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. These allergies have been steadily rising in developed countries around the globe, yet experts can't figure out why. The London researchers didn't find enough evidence that introducing milk, fish, shellfish, tree nuts (like almonds) and wheat to babies reduced the risk of them getting allergies.