A recent study found that feeding infants peanut products can reduce their chance for developing a peanut-related allergy by 86 percent. The National Peanut Producers Board helped fund the study conducted by Dr. Gideon Lack of Kings College in London.
Registered dietitian nutritionist for the National Peanut Producers and expert of food allergies, Sherry Collins, said the study’s results is beneficial to many people.
“This changes the way people view early introduction of peanut foods and changes the number of children who will develop peanut allergies,” Collins said. “It is a very positive outcome for children, families, and peanut farmers.”
The study titled Learning Early About Peanuts, or LEAP, was published in 2015, but additional research is being done every day to further knowledge about peanuts and peanut-related allergies.
A subsequent study was done, LEAP-ON, where researchers asked those involved in LEAP to stop eating peanuts for a year to determine if the tolerance for peanuts was permanent or dependent on the continued consumption of peanut products. The children retained their tolerance for peanuts whether they continued to eat peanuts or not.
Texas Peanut Producers Board Executive Director Shelly Nutt said peanut allergies are often depicted in a negative light in the media.
“The media has kind of sensationalized peanut allergies even though there’s not that many more people who are allergic to peanuts than there are dairy, eggs, and tree nuts,” Nutt said. “But you know when you hear about someone dying from a food allergy, 99.9 percent of the time it’s a peanut.”
With this study being done, the hope from the Texas Peanut Producers Board is that there will be a decrease in food-related allergies. Nutt said she can see a future with no food allergies.
Educating parents about peanut allergies can be a challenge, Nutt said. It is a touchy subject and it can be hard to convince someone to reassess their beliefs.
“It gets really tricky being compassionate and sensitive,” Nutt said, “yet still defending an industry that works so hard to create a safe food supply and let everybody else have access to it. It’s hard to be on this side talking to that parent.”
Nutt said the fear of giving peanuts to children comes from a place of care.
“They’re more concerned about the safety of their child than anything,” Nutt said. “I would be the same way. But from this side I still just want to be based on science, not fear.”
Per the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the number of people affected by peanut allergies is 0.6 percent of the United States population and with this new research by its side, Texas Peanut Producers Board hopes to put an end to peanut allergies.