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Prevent Peanut Allergies With … Peanut Puff

About two years ago, I heard about an interesting study in which doctors compared the rate of peanut allergies in Jewish children being raised in Israel to the rate of peanut allergies in Jewish kids being raised in the United Kingdom. The doctors found the kids in the U.K. were 10 times more likely to develop a peanut allergy than their counterparts in Israel.

Why? The doctors theorized this difference might have been due to early exposure to Bamba, a peanut puff snack food given to young children in Israel.

This observation prompted a research study that looked at the effect of giving peanut products to children at high risk for developing peanut allergies. That’s right – doctors deliberately gave babies they were worried about Bamba snacks. Half the children were exposed to peanut products and while the others avoided all peanut products for the first five years of their lives. The study found that by age five, almost 14 percent of the kids who had avoided peanuts developed an allergy to them compared with only 2 percent in the group that ate the peanut snacks.

Findings from this research, called the Learning Early About Peanut allergy (LEAP) study, led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to recommend safely (for the right infant, and within the right timeframe) introducing infants to peanut products early in life.

I discussed this recent change with Drew Bird, M.D., a pediatric allergist at UT Southwestern, to get the scoop for all you soon-to-be parents who want to plan ahead:


How common are peanut allergies right now?

Recent estimates suggest peanut allergy affects 0.6 percent to 1.3 percent of the U.S. population.

From a practical standpoint, how should parents approach peanut products and implement this new recommendation?

Infants have a high risk of developing a peanut allergy if they have severe atopic dermatitis, commonly called eczema, or if they develop an egg allergy in the first 4 to 6 months of life, or both of the above. In this situation, safely feeding your infant age-appropriate peanut products could very likely prevent the child from developing a peanut allergy.

Is there anyone you wouldn’t recommend introducing peanut products to in the first year of life?

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