Nut allergies have more than quadrupled in the past 13 years. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies and such an allergy can cause a severe, potentially fatal, allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in individuals. Recently however, the world of peanut allergies has been turned upside down with the publishing of a new study, Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy. The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in February 2015, suggests that children should perhaps be fed peanut protein from an early age, in order to prevent a peanut allergy from developing.
The New York Times, among many other media outlets including us here at Inhabitots reported on this new study, so parents around the world have been getting a heaping dose of advice about how feeding kids nuts MAY help prevent allergies. However, as Robyn O’Brien points out, this study has one glaringly limitation: It was funded, in part, by grants from the National Peanut Board. (We were not previously aware of this information when we ran our initial story, but we’re glad we can now report on this conflict of interest). Now we’re asking, should parents really take this study seriously, or is this advice just plain nuts?
The press, for the most part, reporting on these findings have not noted that the study received grant support from the National Peanut Board. Additionally, one doctor on the study reports receiving study materials from Meridian Foods, a popular nut butter company. To be fair, this study was also supported by grants and research from other sources, such as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the United Kingdom Department of Health, and other health organizations. The researchers, in their study, state, “”No manufacturer of peanut products contributed to the design of the study, the accrual or analysis of the data, or the preparation of the manuscript.” However, it’s a major conflict of interest, in my opinion, to use funding and research material from more than one nut organization on a study that’s suggesting we feed kids more nuts. It’s hard to take this seriously. As of right now, the world of nut allergies remains a semi-mystery. In 2000 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that any child at high risk of peanut allergy (i.e. family history, other food allergies, or eczema) not eat peanuts before three years of age, but in 2008 the AAP stopped recommending it because they note it’s not helping. Because this study was funded by two nut-minded organizations, and because information keeps changing, we suggest you discuss nut allergies with your own pediatrician before making a decision about feeding your child nuts.