Want To Prevent Peanut Allergies? Start Cramming Peanut Butter Into Your Baby’s Face ASAP
We’re all used to the constantly changing course of medical advice on what foods to eat or avoid: eggs are either deadly cholesterol-poison or they’re a tasty vegetarian source of protein; coffee is either going to give you a heart attack or save you from one; and the latest food to get a dietary about-face is peanuts. Turns out that keeping peanut products away from young children isn’t a good way to protect them from developing a peanut allergy–in fact, pretty much the opposite is true.
While it’s been a few years since medical professionals have advised holding off on introducing young children to peanuts, the prevailing wisdom has still been to keep any kids at high risk of peanut allergy away from that sweet creamy Jif goodness until age 3 or so. But, as NPR reports, a study from the United Kingdom asked parents of over 600 kids in that high-risk category to start shoveling peanut products into their babies’ faces ASAP to see what happened. Science has never tasted so good.
Parents were asked to give their kids about four heaping tablespoons of peanut butter per week starting between the ages of four and 11 months. (Coincidentally, that’s about how much peanut butter I eat per day, at least 3 tablespoons of which are consumed while standing over the sink.) Impressively, only 3% of the children in the test group developed a peanut allergy, compared to the normal rate of 17% for high risk kids in the population at large.
Cutting the risk of peanut allergy five-fold is huge–especially considering how terrifyingly deadly peanut allergies can be, plus how ubiquitous peanuts are. There’s something on the order of two million kids in the USA with peanut allergies: imagine having 1.5 million fewer parents having to worry about packets of airline peanuts or who’s eating a PB&J in the school cafeteria, 1.5 million little kids not having to take on the adult responsibility of making sure the snack they’re offered on a play date isn’t going to kill them, and 1.5 million families where eggs and peanut butter toast are back on the table for a quick dinner when no one has the energy to cook a ‘real’ meal.
Of course, introducing peanuts to any child, especially a high-risk one, has the potential to go awry, so you should try to kick off the baby-peanut introductions while you’re at home (or a doctor’s office), not at a restaurant. And don’t forget that not just whole peanuts and but also plain peanut butter are dangerous for little ones–you don’t have to be allergic to peanuts to choke on a glob of sticky peanut butter. Try baking peanut butter into bread or muffins, make a thin peanut sauce for vegetables, or throw peanut butter into a lentil stew. Or all of the above. (And then invite me over for dinner.)
(Image: Jaimie Duplass / Getty)