Peanut Allergy: New Evidence that It Can Be Prevented

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 19, 2016

Recent research suggests that peanut allergy can be prevented through the early introduction of peanut into a child’s diet.

Recent research suggests that peanut allergy can be prevented through the early introduction of peanut into a child’s diet.

Contributor: Joyce T. Hsu, MD, is a food allergy specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

In only the last 13 years, the prevalence of peanut allergy in the U.S. has quadrupled. Recent research, however, strongly suggests that peanut allergy – now the nation’s leading cause of food allergy-related anaphylaxis and death – can be prevented through the early introduction of peanut into a child’s diet. According to Dr. Hsu, the Learning Early about Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study may represent the key to reversing our society’s disturbing food allergy trend.

“LEAP may be the most pivotal food allergy study for our generation,” says Dr. Hsu. “Since the results were released last year, we have been trying to increase awareness about this new thinking for peanut allergy.”

The former thinking, at least in this country, says Dr. Hsu, was that parents should avoid giving their children highly allergenic foods during the first few years of life. In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that children deemed to be at risk of developing food allergy not eat peanuts until the age of three. However, cases of peanut allergy continued to rise, and the AAP withdrew its recommendation in 2008. Read More »

Food Allergies: When Nuts Are Not Healthy

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 14, 2014

For some people, nuts are health hazards.

Today’s post, written by Kate Sweeney, M.S.,R.D., Manager of the Nutrition Consultation Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was adapted from an article that originally appeared on Health-e-Weight for Women.

Nuts are rich in protein, fiber, folic acid, vitamin E, and healthy fats. Research studies suggest nuts may have many health benefits, making them an important part of a balanced diet. However, for some people, nuts are health hazards. In the United States, 1.5 million people are severely allergic to peanuts alone. Half the people allergic to peanuts are also allergic to tree nuts. Tree nuts are large, edible seeds of trees and include cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, beechnuts, and pistachios.

What Are Food Allergies?

Food allergies are the immune system’s reaction to proteins in food. Reactions can be mild to severe, in some cases causing life-threatening anaphylactic shock. These reactions are referred to as an “allergic cascade.”  First the allergic food, such as peanuts, enters the body by ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact. The body senses the protein in peanuts as a foreign invader. In response to the threat, IgE antibodies are released into the bloodstream, triggering the release of substances called histamines. Histamines cause the allergic response.

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