Giving Babies Eggs and Peanut Butter Could Prevent Allergies

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

A new study has suggested that giving small amounts of peanut and eggs to babies at an early age could stop them from developing food allergies.

The research was commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency and goes against current advice from the NHS, which warns parents against giving allergenic foods to children under six months of age.

Lead author of the study, Dr Robert Boyle from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said the new analysis gathers all existing information and suggests that introducing peanut and egg at an early age could prevent allergies against these foods.

Scientists from Imperial College London studied data from 146 research studies, which involved more than 200,000 children. They discovered that children aged between four and eleven months who ate products containing peanuts had a 70% lower risk of developing an allergy to the nut, compared to those who ate their first peanut at an older age.

They also revealed that children who started to eat eggs between the ages of four and six months were 40% less likely to develop an egg allergy.

Dr Boyle did, however, warn against introducing these foods to a baby who already has an allergy to food, or another allergic condition, e.g. eczema. He said children in these cases should see a GP before parents introduce eggs or peanuts. He also cautioned that whole nuts should be avoided and children should instead be given peanuts in the form of smooth peanut butter.

According to Dr Boyle, the study also didn’t assess safety or look at how many of the infants suffered allergic reactions from early introduction.

A spokesperson from the UK Food Standards Agency said that the review is of high quality and the government is in consideration over these important results as part of its complementary feeding for infants review, to make sure their advice reflects the best evidence available.

Amena Warner, from Allergy UK, said that infants who have an egg allergy or severe eczema in their first four to six months of life could benefit from an evaluation from a physician or allergist to diagnose food allergies.

According to Allergy UK’s nurse advisor Holly Shaw, egg allergies are common in children and are usually diagnosed in the first year of life, when eggs are first introduced into an infant’s diet. The most common allergens are found in egg whites, but it is possible to be allergic to yolk too. She also said that peanut and tree nut allergies tend to persist with age, whereas egg allergies can reduce over time.