Peanut allergies are a serious and potentially deadly form of food allergy that is the subject of much childhood and adult stress as people try and navigate a world rife with potential triggers. Methods aimed at reducing the likelihood of children developing peanut allergies have been tested during the LEAP clinical trial in England, which was lead by the King’s College in London.
The trial, which published results in 2015, showed that high-risk infants who were fed peanut products early in life had an 81% lower chance of developing peanut allergies.
Since peanut products are not normally part of an early childhood diet, there was some question of whether this could have adverse effects on the infant’s growth and nutrition during the early periods of development.
Fortunately, the rest of the LEAP data has been crunched and the results say that the addition of peanuts has not had any negative impact on the children’s nutritional development or ability to breastfeed.
LEAP Nutrition Analysis: Summary
- The LEAP trial covered 640 infants aged 4 to 11 months
- Infants were randomly assigned to either eat a minimum of 2g of peanut protein three times per week, or to avoid peanuts entirely
- The recent analysis compared the growth, nutrition, and diets of the LEAP peanut eaters and avoiders, data for which was also collected during the trial
- One key finding is that the introduction of solid foods before six months in the peanut group did not reduce the duration of breastfeeding, which was one possible concern
- There were also no noticeable height, weight, or BMI differences, even when comparing the avoiders to the eaters who consumed the highest amount of peanut protein
- Peanut eaters had fewer chips or savory snacks and peanut avoiders had higher carbohydrate intake, though both groups had similar total calorie intake overall
What This Means
One of the key concerns when studying new therapies is the potential for unwanted side effects. This is true regardless of whether the therapy is a drug or a diet plan.
Since the LEAP trial required some infants to be introduced to solid foods earlier than the current prevailing advice dictated, it was important to make sure this did not create other disruptions.
If it was found that the use of peanut protein in the LEAP trial caused babies to stop breastfeeding early or if it was found to make them fatter, for instance, it would be cause to consider further research into the risks v. benefits of the approach. Since such effects were not observed, the strength for recommending the early use of peanut protein to reduce allergy risk is now higher.
- The early introduction of peanut protein was not found to negatively impact early childhood nutrition or breastfeeding habits
“Peanut Allergy Prevention Strategy Is Nutritionally Safe, NIH-Funded Study Shows,” NIAD web site, June 10, 2016; http://www.niaid.nih.gov/news/newsreleases/2016/Pages/LEAP-nutrition.aspx, last accessed June 13, 2016.