Some potentially game-changing research about peanut allergies indicates new ways to help keep children healthy

A British study conducted by Dr. Gideon Lack, a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London, used the Israeli peanut-based snack Bamba as the basis of his research to determine whether peanut allergies can be prevented by feeding children nut-based products beginning in infancy.

Bamba, the top-selling snack in Israel, contains 50% peanuts and is fortified with vitamins and minerals. Many Israeli families buy it regularly; kids snack on it from early infancy. Yet rates of peanut allergy in Israeli children are low. The study’s conclusion, and an accompanying editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that most peanut allergies can be prevented by feeding young children food containing peanuts beginning in infancy, rather than avoiding them.

McMaster University allergist and immunologist Dr. Susan Wasserman has been running a clinical trial on peanut allergies since 2011 involving 32 children. Her study focus is on desensitizing. “We were able to desensitize 20 children by learning that these children can tolerate two peanuts a day… We’re going to see whether they can tolerate more,” Dr. Wasserman, told the Hamilton Spectator.

This doesn’t mean that the approach is ready for families or their doctors at this point, Wasserman warns. She says while desensitizing is a new method, and she is excited about initial results, her end game is a vaccine that would make eating peanuts safe for everyone of all ages.