SunButter is interested in the latest news and recommendations on peanuts and other allergens in children, especially in very young kids. Lisa Beach, Ph.D., was kind enough to share her expert opinion with us in this guest blog post. Lisa is a wellness coach and nutrition instructor in Upstate New York, where she works with individual and corporate clients and teaches for multiple colleges and universities both face-to-face and online. She conducts wellness and nutrition workshops in the community aiming to promote a diet consisting of whole, unprocessed foods and an active, balanced lifestyle. Lisa has education and certifications in exercise science, public health, nutrition, community health promotion/education, and mind-body skills. She has conducted research in the area of women’s health using a methodology of exploring how a person’s story and experiences shape and impact lifestyle. Of course, Lisa’s post reflects her own views, and is not intended to replace your family physician’s advice. You can read more from Lisa at www.thrive-style.com.
Parents must sift through conflicting opinions on many subjects related to their children’s health and development. Feeding them peanut-based products is one that many may never have considered. In the U.S., most parents follow the advice of their physicians regarding when to introduce certain foods and it is generally accepted that infants should not be given any solid foods before the age of four to six months.
Many doctors suggest parents not offer children under the age of two any peanuts or peanut products. Alternately, some experts believe that delaying the introduction of potential allergens (such as peanuts) has no impact on whether or not a child is allergic and believe there is no reason to delay peanut consumption. From a cautious middle-ground viewpoint and although research is not definitive about waiting until after the age of two to consume peanuts, waiting appears to be in a child’s best interests.
In addition to the significant increase in peanut allergies among our youngest generation, caution is advised because peanuts contain a specific type of fungus (aflatoxin), and can also contain botulism (usually when processed incorrectly). For an average person older than two, small amounts of fungi and toxins do not cause an immediate health risk; a highly developed and healthy immune system resists and fights them. However, existing evidence indicates that repeated exposure to aflatoxins leads to the development of cancer even in healthy individuals, and botulism is the source of serious illness (and even death) if introduced in significant amounts.
Growing infants are in the process of developing a stronger immune system, and while it takes larger amounts of toxins to negatively impact an older person’s health, a baby may become seriously ill from limited exposure. Peanuts are among several other nuts, legumes, and grains that pose a potential risk in small children for allergic reaction or toxin exposure.
It is commonly agreed upon that the safety and health of each child is most important. Isn’t it best to be cautious and not give peanuts to children under the age of two?
We’re interested in your experiences and opinions on this topic, as well. What has worked for you and your children, and what do you recommend? We appreciate all comments.