Recently in class we have been talking about whether vaccines at a young age can lead to down syndrome; during this discussion, it reminded me of when people say that eating certain foods at a young age can lead to allergies. For example it was a common belief that eating peanut butter at an early age can lead to allergies later in life. I decided to write my blog post about whether this was true or not. The null hypothesis for this experiment is that eating food at a young age has no effect on the child’s health. The adverse hypothesis is that being exposed to certain foods to early can increase the changes of allergies later in life.
While I was researching, this I found multiple news articles and studies that said feeding your child peanut butter can decrease your chances of developing allergies. In “Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy” researchers conducted an experiment with 640 infants between the age of 4 months to 11 months. In the study, it states that the researchers chose to look at kids that had either preexisting eczema or egg allergies (According to the study). The children were internally split up into two group. If you tested negative to a skin prick test (a common way of telling if a child is allergic to a certain food) you were placed in one group and the other group was made up of kids that tested positive. Within these two groups the children were split up again to either consume peanut butter or to avoid it until the age of 5. The group that tested positive received a slightly larger dose per week, they received 3.9 grams. The other group received 2 g of peanut butter per week. Within this experiment, there were 4 groups two that received peanut butter and 2 control groups. At the age of 5 the children were tested again to see if they had become allergic to peanut butter. In the group that tested negative to the prick test 13.7% of the avoidance group developed allegories compared to only 1.9% of the consumption group (as stated in the study). In the group that tested positive to the baseline test 35.3% of the avoidance group developed allergies to peanut butter compared to 10.6% of the consumption group (according to the study). According to the researches these numbers show that there is an 86% risk reduction when children are exposure to peanuts earlier in life. These numbers show that consuming small amounts of peanut butter at a young age can reduce a child’s change of becoming allergic.
I looked at more experiments to see if those results match this one. There was one experiment that had mothers introduce allergic foods to their infants at the age of three months along with breast feeding compared to at 6 months after breast feeding. In this experiment the relative risk was 67% lower in the children who started eating allergenic foods at 3 months compared to at 6.
From these experiments, we can reject the adverse hypothesis that eating allergenic foods at a young age can increase the changes of allergic reactions later in life. The experiment “Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy” was well conducted with a large sampling group and account for 3rd variables by splitting the groups in the beginning based on risk of already being allergic. The second experiment was set up a differently and still found results that rejected the adverse hypothesis. I do not believe that these experiments suffer from the file drawer problem because this is a new way of thinking and scientist would publish research that agreed with the old view of it causing allergies. As most people who are reading this are still in college and don’t have young infants the time may come years later when you do; these suggestions should be taken into consideration as well as talking to your doctor.