If you pay attention to medical and health recommendations long enough, it’s pretty common to see one idea supported, then reviled, and then back to being in favor again. Theories about peanuts and their place in young children’s diets are the latest to feel this back-and-forth phenomenon. From 1998-2007 (i.e. when many of our children were born) in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, many physicians and medical guidelines recommended excluding peanuts from the diets of infants (as well as from the diets of pregnant or breastfeeding moms). In 2008, those recommendations were withdrawn and a new study suggests that introducing peanuts early in a child’s life may actually reduce his or her risk of developing a peanut allergy.

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The study, recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine, instructed the parents of 640 infants who were already at higher risk for developing peanut allergies due to a previous egg allergy or severe eczema (or both), to either abstain from peanuts completely until the age of 5 or to introduce peanuts into their child’s diet on a regular basis beginning at four months of age. The children were tested before the study to see if they had a peanut allergy and were then monitored through regular visits and telephone consultations. At five years of age, the children were tested again, and the results were surprising: almost 14% of the children who were not given peanuts or peanut-based products tested positive for a peanut allergy, while less than 2% of the children who regularly consumed the peanut products tested positive. New parents will likely wait on more information and further studies before deciding whether to introduce peanut-based products into their kid’s diets, but if this study is any indication, peanut products are about to start having their moment again.

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