Feeding children peanuts may avoid allergies in later life

Infants could be protected from developing a peanut allergy by eating them Credit: Katie Collins/PA Wire

Feeding children peanuts at a young age could help them avoid developing an allergy to the nuts in later life, according to a new study.

Research undertaken as part of a Learning early about peanut allergy (Leap) clinical trial found the introduction of peanut-containing food was found to be "safe and well tolerated" in children and could reduce the risk of a future allergy developing.

The NHS website currently advises parents should avoid giving children peanuts before the age of six months.

Leap's lead investigator, Professor Gideon Lack, from King's College London, said the trial's findings showed previous advice about the nuts could be incorrect, although it was noted the results did not apply to infants who had shown early signs of a peanut allergy as they were excluded from the trial.

He said: "For decades allergists have been recommending that young infants avoid consuming allergenic foods such as peanut to prevent food allergies.

"Our findings suggest that this advice was incorrect and may have contributed to the rise in the peanut and other food allergies."

ITV News' Science Correspondent Alok Jha reports on the latest findings:

As part of the trial two groups of children aged four to 11 months who already suffered from eczema or egg allergies, both of which are considered to indicate a high risk of developing a peanut allergy, were monitored for reactions to the nuts.

One group ate peanut-containing snack foods at least three times a week and the other group were kept away from peanuts altogether. As many as 17% of the children who were in the group who avoided the nuts became allergic to the food by the age of five compared to 3% who were in the group that consumed peanuts.

In children who are prone to the allergy, peanuts can cause symptoms including hives and abdominal pain to the potentially life-threatening allergic reaction anaphylaxis.