A new study suggests that giving babies peanut butter can cut the risk of nut allergies.
Researchers have discovered that feeding peanut butter to babies aged between 4 and 6 months old can reduce the risk of peanut allergies by over 70%.
Scientists believe that giving babies tiny amounts of peanut butter during the weaning process could play a significant role in lowering risks.
Researchers from the University of Southampton, King’s College London and the National Institute for Health and Care Research found that offering babies small amounts of peanut butter between 4 and 6 months cut allergy risks by 77%. This equates to reducing the number of cases of peanut allergies from 13,000 to 3,000 per year.
The team highlighted a critical period during weaning, which produced the most effective results. When children were given peanut butter and other peanut products at the age of 12 months, the risk fell by just 33%. The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Researchers encouraged parents to introduce babies who have eczema to peanut butter at the age of around 4 months and other children between 4 and 6 months, providing that the child is ready. The team recommends starting with soft fruits and vegetables before adding peanut butter. They suggest 3 teaspoons per week from the age of 4-6 months. In the early stages, peanut butter can be mixed with breastmilk to add moisture.
The research group has urged the government to update current guidelines on weaning, which suggest that no solid foods should be introduced until the age of 6 months. Whole and chopped nuts are not recommended before the age of 5 due to carrying a choking risk. Ground peanuts and peanut butter can be introduced from 6 months, according to the NHS website. Babies can start to try solids once they can hold their head steady while sitting, swallow food and coordinate movements between the hands, eye and mouth.
Peanut allergies now affect around 1 in 50 UK children. They have become more common and some schools have banned peanut products as a result. For many years, parents have been advised to avoid foods that carry allergy risks during the early years, but new evidence gathered in the last decade suggests that exposing young children to different foods could help to lower the risk of allergies. In Israel, for example, peanut snacks are very popular among children and the rates of peanut allergies are much lower than in the UK.
Prof Graham Roberts, from the University of Southampton, said that parents had become incredibly fearful of nuts due to allergies and guidelines linked to choking. He called for the advice to be updated to try to reduce allergy risks and prevent thousands of children from ending up with peanut allergies. This most recent study shows that tiny amounts of peanut butter during weaning can lower the risk by almost 80%.
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