Over the last few weeks, just about every media outlet has sounded off the theory that avoiding peanuts while pregnant or waiting too long to offer it to babies is what caused the peanut allergy epidemic. The reason for the recent media push comes following the release of new guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease which state a child with a high or moderately high risk of developing a peanut allergy should be given peanuts early, at 4-6 months old.
Food allergies have been a hot button topic in the media lately. First, with the rise in epi-pen prices and now with the release of guidelines for introducing peanuts. Unfortunately, I could print off articles by the major news outlets, lay them next to each other and the rhetoric is the same: “Feed your infant ground peanuts at 4-6 months old and he won’t have a peanut allergy!” It’s unfortunate that the authors couldn’t refrain from copy and pasting and instead bring awareness to areas of food allergy research that would make a difference is really finding the answer –> T-cells, the immune system, Tbhq, peanut oil in topical antibiotics, GMO’s, preservatives in food (labeled & unlabeled), c-sections & lack of good bacteria during birth, vaccines, the decline in infectious diseases and rise in immune-related diseases, vitamin D deficiency, gut permeability…and many other potential pieces to the puzzle.
But, suppose parents follow this recommendation and offer their babies ground peanuts in their baby food at 4-6 months. Okay…so what about the other top 7 allergens…do we introduce those as well? Puree some shellfish and give it to them at 4-6 months, too?? . We need to figure out the root of the problem. How about asking why there even is a “top 8 of food allergens”? What makes those foods so “special”? Why are food allergy and asthma rates so much higher in the US than other first world countries? Why are they virtually non-existent in third world countries?
Food for thought: if early introduction was truly the single answer to preventing food allergies, then why is cow’s milk one of the top 8 allergens when the base of most standard infant formulas is cow’s milk? There are so many other possible factors – physiological and environmental- that play a role in whether a person will have food allergies and “early introduction” is not the ANSWER. We need more questions to be asked and more research to be done in the quest to understand and prevent food allergies.