New study: Go ahead, feed your baby peanut butter

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – New guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), published Thursday, call for early introduction of peanut-containing foods to infants to prevent the development of peanut allergy.

The traditional advice was to keep peanuts away from young children, but this new study says otherwise.

Read: Complete summary for parents (PDF)

While this information is new to many, allergist Dr. Asif Khan said he’s been recommending that for years.

“I’ve told parents to introduce it at any time. I’ve been saying that since I started because I know there’s sort of a buildup period where you need to start introducing foods to children at a very young age.”

Ashley Kiser’s son, Jace, has a peanut allergy. She was always given different advice.

“I was always told to keep it away from them at a certain age,” Kiser said.

Clinical trials reported last year show that regular peanut consumption begun in infancy and continued through 5 years old led to an 81 percent reduction in the development of peanut allergy.

“The LEAP study clearly showed that introduction of peanut early in life significantly lowered the risk of developing peanut allergy by age 5,” said Daniel Rotrosen, MD, director of NIAID’s Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation. “The magnitude of the benefit and the scientific strength of the study raised the need to operationalize these findings by developing clinical recommendations focused on peanut allergy prevention.”

The NIAID recommends giving peanut butter to children with severe eczema around 4 to 6 months, and consulting a doctor. If they have moderate eczema, it says parents should wait until about 6 months.

Infants with egg allergies should also be given peanut butter as early as 4 to 6 months, according to the study.

If your child does not have eczema or an egg allergy, the NIAID says it’s okay to introduce peanut butter at any time.

In all cases, infants should start other solid foods before they are introduced to peanut-containing food.

“Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD. “We expect that widespread implementation of these guidelines by health care providers will prevent the development of peanut allergy in many susceptible children and ultimately reduce the prevalence of peanut allergy in the United States.”

The new guidelines are targeted at a wide variety of health care providers, including pediatricians and family doctors.

Read: Complete summary for clinicians (PDF)

“Some of these parents are terrified. They came in and I told them, ‘Hey, bring some peanut butter and we’ll have him eat it right here,’” Khan said.

Kiser wished this information would have come out sooner.

“I really wish I would have heard of this and I could have introduced him as a baby,” she said.

Rose Butch’s son also has a severe peanut allergy. She said while the results are interesting, it might be unwise to change how parents introduce peanuts based on one study.

“Right now I think there needs to be a lot more research, a lot more studying and some more positive results before I have a positive opinion on this.”

Parents and caregivers should check with their doctors before feeding an infant peanut-containing food.

“Come to see an allergist, talk it over,” Khan said. “Make sure it’s a true allergy and if it’s not, it will save these children a lot of headache and heartache.”

Khan thinks the way peanut butter is made contributes to the increase in allergies.

A Case Western study showed most generic peanut butters are 90 percent peanuts and 10 percent sugar. Sugar suppresses the immune system, which leads the system to believe that the peanut protein is an enemy and attack it.

Khan said if children ate organic peanut butters that were 100 percent peanuts, they may not have this problem.