Natural Foods Merchandiser

Hope spreads for peanut-allergic

A small, new study offers a kernel of hope for those living in fear of peanuts—and not just the salmonella-tainted variety.

Gradual exposure to peanuts may end peanut allergies, suggests a recent study conducted on four peanut-allergic children at Addenbrooke Hospital in Cambridge, England. The four patients began by eating tiny 5-mg doses of peanut flour and slowly built up over six months to 800 mg—160 times the starting dose and the equivalent to five whole peanuts. The children involved in the study currently eat five peanuts a day and have maintained their tolerance, a life-changing development that allows them to dine out with their families without fearing a trip to the emergency room.

"Every time people with a peanut allergy eat something, they're frightened that it might kill them," Dr. Andy Clark, who led the research, said in a release. "Our motivation was to find a treatment that would change that and give them the confidence to eat what they like. It's all about quality of life."

The study is published in this week's issue of the journal Allergy.

Peanut allergy desensitization studies conducted in the 1990s using peanut injections produced serious side effects and were generally unsuccessful. Doctors involved in the Addenbrooke study believe using the more gentle oral doses may have made the critical difference.

Peanut allergies seem to be on the rise. According to a study cited by the The Food Allergy and Anaphlaxis Network, a non-profit resource center based in Fairfax, Va., twice as many children were diagnosed between 1997 and 2002 than during the five previous years.

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