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Peanut exposure in early childhood protects against allergy in adolescence

June 3, 2024

Children who consumed peanuts up to age 5 were likely to tolerate them into their adolescent years, regardless of whether they continued to consume peanuts in the interim, a recent study showed.

The study followed children at high risk for allergy who participated in previous trials looking at whether early exposure to peanut or avoidance was a better strategy to prevent later allergies.

In the original 2015 study, called Learning Early About Peanut allergy (LEAP), 640 infants between 4 and 11 months old with severe eczema, egg allergy or both were given skin-prick tests for peanut allergy. Children in each of the two resulting cohorts then were randomly assigned to consume or avoid peanuts until reaching age 60 months.

On the initial allergy test, 530 had negative results. At 60 months, 13.7% of those infants in the avoidance group developed a peanut allergy compared to 1.9% in the consumption group. Among the 98 infants with positive initial results, 35.3% of those who avoided peanuts developed allergy compared to 10.6% of those who consumed peanuts.

The current trial, called LEAP-Trio, examined 508 of the initial 640 participants at age 12 years, and 497 of them had enough data to determine whether they had developed a peanut allergy. Of those, 15.4% in the avoidance group had peanut allergy compared to 4.4% in the consumption group.

Members of both groups had been consuming peanuts to varying degrees between 5 and 12 years of age. Almost 80% of the 2015 trial’s participants were assessed in the LEAP-Trio study and had similar results at 5 and 6 years as the entire original LEAP sample.

The study’s authors said these results demonstrate “that regular early consumption of peanut achieved durable tolerance to peanut regardless of consumption in later childhood.”

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