The infants who participated in the LEAP study are still being followed and assessed by researchers.
The Learning About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study initially determined that early introduction of peanuts to infants at high risk for allergy reduced the incidence of peanut allergy 81 percent, when compared to peanut avoidance.
The eye-opening LEAP findings caused quite a stir since the prevailing wisdom had been that children should avoid peanut. The study also they also raised some new questions. Researchers wondered, for instance, what impact regular peanut consumption had on the growth, nutrition, and diet of the LEAP study participants.
“...it’s critically important to establish that forthcoming feeding guidance for the prevention of peanut allergy will not have any detrimental effect on a child’s nutrition and growth,” said James R. Baker, Jr., MD, CEO and chief medical officer of FARE.
The children participating in LEAP ingested a peanut snack that provided them with 6 grams of peanut protein per week—roughly the same as three teaspoons of peanut butter. To ascertain the nutritional effects of that early peanut consumption follow-up research was funded by NIAID, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and scientists determined the following:
- The early introduction of peanut did not lead to a significantly shorter period of breastfeeding. “This is important due to concerns that introduction of solid foods before age 6 months will reduce breast-feeding duration,” wrote the study’s authors.
- No differences in height, weight, BMI, or other dimensions were found between peanut consumption participants, and peanut avoidance participants.
- Peanut consumption and avoidance groups each had similar total energy intakes from their food, and their protein intake was also consistent. The peanut eaters had higher fat consumption; the peanut avoiders had higher carbohydrate consumption.
These and other findings led the study authors to concur that consuming peanut is a nutritionally safe means of preventing peanut allergy. To eliminate the risk of choking, they also recommend that parents or other caregivers seek advice from medical professionals about suitable peanut products to give their young children.
The NAIAD will be releasing feeding guidelines based on the LEAP study sometime next year. Meanwhile, consult with your doctor or allergist before altering your infant’s or toddler’s diet.