A new study suggests children who don't eat peanut before their first birthday are more likely to be allergic to the food at age three.
Researchers say babies were more than four times as likely to have a clinical allergy to peanut by age three than those who did eat it in the first 12 months of life.
The data involved more than 2,600 Canadian children enrolled in the long-running CHILD Cohort Study, which is investigating the root causes of an array of chronic diseases including asthma, allergies and obesity.
None of the infants introduced to peanut before six months of age were sensitized to the food at age three.
Lead researcher Elinor Simons said the findings suggest even babies at low-risk of developing an allergy should consume peanut early. Other well-known studies have focused on the importance of introducing peanut to babies at high-risk of developing an allergy.
"This study's findings should reassure parents, caregivers and health-care professionals about the benefits of early peanut introduction for all children," Simons, a clinician-scientist at the Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, said Thursday in a release.
The study also found that children who did not try peanut by age 18 months were more than seven times more likely to be sensitized to peanut compared to those who started eating the food before nine months of age.
"This tells us that if peanut is not introduced before the age of 12 months, it should still be introduced as soon as possible," added Simons, also an assistant pediatrics professor at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and a pediatric allergist at the Children's Hospital of Manitoba.
The findings were published online Thursday in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
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The Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Cohort Study is tracking nearly 3,500 Canadian infants and their families to help determine the root causes of several chronic diseases. It spans four provinces, involving more than 140 multidisciplinary researchers, students and research staff.
The study subjects were drawn from the general population and most were not considered to be at high risk of developing an allergy.
"Even when we excluded high-risk children, early peanut introduction was associated with a lower risk of peanut allergy by age three," Simons noted.
Infant feeding guidelines have changed significantly in recent years and Simons acknowledged that some parents might be wary of introducing potentially allergenic foods to young children.
But the findings are in line with previous research by the CHILD Cohort Study, which found in June 2017 that delaying common allergenic foods for infants increases the risk of sensitivities later on.
That study, published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, found that infants who avoided cow's milk products, egg and peanut during their first year were more likely to be sensitized to these foods at age one.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2019.