Eighty percent of children who participated in an experimental treatment at Addenbrooke's Hospital in the U.K. for six months were afterwards able to safely eat peanuts without a experiencing a reaction. The researchers at the hospital gave 99 kids between the ages 7 and 16 increasing doses of peanut flour mixed in with their food. Researchers slowly upped the amount of flour from 2 milligrams to 800 milligrams. At the end of the trial, the scientists reported that well over half of the children could eat five peanuts at a time without experiencing dangerous side effects.
The idea behind the therapy is that the children's immune systems slowly build a tolerance to peanuts through consuming small amounts. The goal of the treatment is not to completely cure the children of their allergies, but to help them build a tolerance that will prevent them from having severe and life-threatening reactions if they come into contact with them. The researchers plan to test the same treatment in larger populations.
Health experts are not sure why, but food allergies are on a rise in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 4-6% of U.S. children have a food allergy. How food allergies develop is still being studied, but some guesses are that America's high standard of sanitation is making us "too clean" and unable to build up immune systems that can fight common allergens from foods and the environment. It's also possible that kids who don't eat foods like peanuts and shellfish when they are younger may develop allergies to them.
Image: Peanut butter, via Shutterstock