Recent trials have shown that avoiding peanuts during infancy increases the risk of peanut allergy, however the studies did not address maternal peanut consumption. In a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology titled “Reduced risk of peanut sensitization following exposure through breast-feeding and early peanut introduction” researchers sought to determine what role does maternal peanut consumption while breast feeding have in peanut sensitization in their children.
Breast-feeding and maternal and infant peanut consumption were captured by repeated questionnaires during infancy and skin prick testing for peanuts was performed at 7 years of age.
In the study, 58% of mothers consumed peanuts while breast-feeding and 22% introduced peanuts to their infant by 12 months of age. At 7 years, approximately 9% of children were sensitized to peanuts. The lowest incidence (1.7%) was observed among children whose mothers consumed peanuts while breast-feeding and directly introduced before 12 months. If mothers consumed peanuts while breast-feeding but delayed peanut introduction beyond 12 months, the incidence of peanut sensitization was 15%. If mothers avoided peanuts themselves but directly introduced peanuts by 12 months, the incidence was 17%.
- Peanut introduction before 12 months was associated with protection against peanut sensitization but only if mothers consumed peanuts while breast-feeding
- Either exposure alone (maternal consumption during lactation or infant consumption before 12 months but not both) was associated with an increased risk of sensitization.
These results add to the emerging evidence that early peanut ingestion during infancy reduces the risk of peanut allergy in childhood and suggest that the risk could be further reduced by encouraging maternal consumption of peanuts during lactation. The passive peanut exposure through breast milk and the early peanut introduction decreases the peanut sensitization of children.
Further studies will be needed to confirm these results, but these early studies suggest a lactating mother should consume peanuts to reduce the risk of peanut sensitization in addition to the early introduction of peanut products.