Feeding babies peanuts earlier could reduce allergies - research

llergies have been on the rise in the developed world over the last few decades (Getty)
llergies have been on the rise in the developed world over the last few decades (Getty)

Introducing peanuts to a baby's diet early could reduce their chances of developing an allergy to them, new research has found.

About 2 percent of Kiwis are believed to suffer from a peanut allergy, which can be fatal.

But a wide-ranging review of existing scientific literature has found babies fed peanut-based food between the ages of four and 11 months are 70 percent less likely to end up allergic.

The same goes for eggs, with exposure reducing the chances of developing an allergy by 40 percent.

Allergy New Zealand CEO Mark Dixon says the findings go against recommendations to avoid giving babies peanuts and eggs.

"What we are basically advocating is introducing baby to as wide a range of foods as possible when they're ready after four months, bearing in mind the choking hazard, and to keep breastfeeding throughout."

MedSafe currently recommends against giving babies eggs until they're a year old if their family has a history of food allergies, and peanuts until they're three.

"This is a really big deal," says Mr Dixon. "It's a complete U-turn."

Researchers at Imperial College London analysed 146 different studies involving more than 200,000 children in total.

The study also found hints that giving babies fish before they're nine months old is associated with reduced hay fever.

"We're very interested in allergens through dairy proteins in New Zealand, and we hope that the research continues and the data supports other foods, such as soy, seafood, et cetera," says Mr Dixon.

The researchers warned parents should consult their doctor before introducing peanuts and eggs to babies, particularly if they suffer from eczema.

Allergies have been on the rise in the developed world over the last few decades. Recent studies have pointed the finger at overuse of antibiotics and kids' lack of exposure to bacteria.

The latest research was published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


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