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Diet & Health : Children & Women Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Early exposure to peanuts may reduce risk of peanut allergy
By David Liu, Ph. D.
Nov 7, 2008 - 2:57:53 PM

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Friday November 7, 2008 ( -- Early exposure to peanuts is associated with a low prevalence of peanut allergy, according to a new study in the Nov 2008 issue of Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The finding suggests that to reduce peanut allergy, children need to get exposed to peanuts early in their infancy, a notion that is contradictory to the recommendation that consumption of peanuts in infancy should be avoided.

Dr. George Du Toit of King's College London and colleagues said that the UK, Australia and recently the US all recommend that women avoid peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding and should not allow peanuts in their kids' diet during infancy.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the prevalence of peanut allergy and diet for 5,171 Jewish children in the UK and 5,615 children in Israel.

They found the prevalence of peanut allergy in the Jewish children in the UK was 10 times higher than that in the Jewish children in Israel, 1.85 percent versus 0.17 percent.

The environmental exposure to possible causes of allergy was similar in two groups of children.

The only difference, according to the authors, is probably the timing of exposure to peanuts. In Israel, 69 percent of children consumed peanuts by 9 months of age compared to 10 percent in the UK.

Additionally, mothers in the UK consumed far much less peanuts during pregnancy than their counterparts in Israel.

The researchers suggest that the recommendation to avoid exposure to peanut in early infancy may actually be responsible for the high prevalence of peanut allergy in the UK, the US and Australia.

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