February 19, 2018
4 min read

Maternal peanut consumption, early introduction protect against allergy

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Infants of mothers who consume peanuts while breast-feeding and directly introduce their child to the food by 12 months of age are less likely to be sensitized to peanuts, according to a study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

“The prevalence of food allergy has increased in recent decades, particularly in the United Kingdom and other industrialized nations. Approximately 7% of Canadian children have a food allergy, with peanut being among the most common,” Tracy J. Pitt, MD, from the Humber River Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, and colleagues wrote. “There are many theories regarding the cause of food allergy, including breaches in oral tolerance and alternative routes of exposure leading to sensitization… Recent studies suggest that early introduction to peanuts may in fact reduce the likelihood of developing peanut allergy.”

To assess the connection between mothers eating peanuts while breast-feeding, the time in which peanuts are introduced to their child and sensitization at 7 years of age, the researchers conducted secondary analysis of a nested cohort. People studied were included in the 1995 Canadian Asthma Primary Prevention Study intervention study, which encompassed multiple maternal questionnaires while their children were infants. When the children reached 7 years of age, skin prick tests were performed to determine peanut sensitization.

Of the mothers included in the analysis, 58.2% had eaten peanuts while breast-feeding. By the time their infant had reached 12 months of age, 22.5% of mothers had introduced their children to peanuts. At age 7 years, 9.4% of children were determined to be sensitized to peanuts, with the lowest incidence occurring in children who were introduced to peanuts before age 12 months and whose mothers ate peanuts while breast-feeding (1.7%). This combination was observed to be a protective factor against sensitization.

Children were significantly more likely to be sensitized to peanuts if their mothers consumed the food while breast-feeding but delayed introduction until after their infant was older than 12 months (15.1%; P < .05). Additionally, sensitization was also more common in children of mothers who did not eat peanuts while breast-feeding but attempted to introduce the food to their infant by 12 months of age (17.6%). Delayed introduction or maternal avoidance of peanuts while breast-feeding was observed to create an increased risk of sensitization.

“The associations noted in our secondary analysis suggest that maternal peanut consumption while breast-feeding may differentially influence peanut sensitization depending on the timing of direct peanut introduction, and vice versa, although further research is needed to formally test this hypothesis,” Pitt and colleagues wrote. – by Katherine Bortz

Disclosure: Pitt reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.