For the roughly 10 million people across the world who suffer from peanut allergies, a recent finding presented in the Lancet Medical Journal could be a life-changing revelation. A trial that consisted of 99 allergic children ranging from ages seven to sixteen showed that over time, consuming small amounts of peanut powder can actually help the body build up a tolerance level, dramatically cutting the risk of accidental overdose.
The trial, which took place over a six-month period, the vast majority (84 percent) of the children involved were able to safely consume 800 mg of peanut powder a day. This amount, which is the approximate equivalent of five peanuts, was 25 times the amount the same children were able to tolerate prior to the trial.
Even more encouraging, the study found that only one in five of the children involved in the treatment reported any adverse allergic symptoms at all. These were typically of the mild variety, according to the authors of the trial–primarily limited to mild itching of the mouth. Those who were in the control group of the study and avoided peanuts altogether over the same time period did not show any improved ability to eat peanuts.
While those with peanut allergies are very widespread throughout the world, this discovery would prove especially relieving to parents, as one in fifty suffers from adverse reactions to peanuts. More alarmingly, the consequences of accidental ingestion are often fatal. Accidental peanut consumption in those who have the allergy is one of the most common causes of fatal food reactions.
Since children can unknowingly eat trace amounts of peanuts in snacks or meals, parents of those with allergic reactions are forced to be live with constant worry that the smallest accidental ingestion could prove fatal. By increasing the body’s tolerance level to the amount indicated in the trial, this fear would be negated considerably, as 800 mg is far beyond what is likely to be consumed by accident.
While this development is certainly promising, researchers are careful to stress caution at this stage in the process. Keeping in mind that recent studies for treating milk allergies proved unsuccessful, more testing is needed before the findings can be confirmed scientifically. The risks are still far too great for parents to attempt similar treatment to their child at home.
The treatment should also not be looked at as a cure, as the body would lose the tolerance to peanuts over time if small amounts are not consumed on a daily basis. Another potential note of concern is that even with successful treatment such as the one found in the trial, there is no way to ever be sure of preventing anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction that swells the airway and results in the inability to breathe. This reaction can occur within minutes even if the tiniest amount of the food substance is consumed.
Despite the still existing concerns, the trial is a step forward in the battle against peanut allergy, and something for the millions with the affliction to be hopeful about.
by Spencer Hendricks
Science World Report