So Now It's OK to Give Peanut Products to Babies?

Q: So now it's OK to give peanut products to babies so they don't develop a peanut allergy later? Why the total turnaround?

Oz Says: Dramatic new research suggests that giving infants peanut products is a better way to prevent allergies than withholding them. The results were stunning—and hopeful. For decades, parents were told that delaying the introduction of this food would reduce the risk of kids having reactions. But peanut allergies in children have quadrupled since 1997 and are the leading cause of food-allergy-related deaths in the U.S. It's possible this thinking actually caused the rates to skyrocket. Kids may need early contact with peanuts in order to develop an ability to tolerate them later, says Rebecca Gruchalla, M.D., Ph.D., director of allergy and immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

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The landmark study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that babies who were fed peanut products starting between 4 and 11 months of age lowered their chance of developing allergies to that nut by 70% to 80%—and these were kids at high risk for food allergies. In fact, only about 3% of peanut-eating babies became allergic by age 5, compared to roughly 17% of those on peanut-free diets. Thinking began to shift a few years ago, but this is the best evidence so far that the approach is wise. And some top food allergy experts believe new guidelines need to be drawn up.

If you're going to feed peanut products to your kids, be careful about it. Work with your pediatrician to determine the risks and agree on a schedule and system.  

This story originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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