Why Hardly Anyone In Israel Is Allergic To Peanuts

Why Hardly Anyone In Israel Is Allergic To Peanuts

August 18, 2019 100 By William Morgan


– [Narrator] The U.S. has
an epidemic on its hands.
Peanut allergies.
Between 1997 and 2008,
the number of American children
with a peanut allergy has tripled.
And today, an estimated 1.8 million kids
in the U.S. have one.
That’s larger than the entire
population of Philadelphia.
And the U.S. is not alone.
The UK, Canada, and Australia
have seen a similar rise
in child peanut allergies.
But, that’s not the case for
other countries like China,
Thailand, Korea, the
Philippines, and Israel.
So, what do these countries
have that the U.S. doesn’t?
(curious music)
In Israel, there is a joke
that the first three words
out of every toddler’s mouth
are: abba, which means dad,
ima, which means mom,
and Bamba.
Bamba is a popular peanuty snack.
An estimated 90% of Israeli families
buy it on a regular basis.
And guess what?
The peanut allergy rate
in Israel is 1/10 the rate
that it is in the UK.
And in China and Thailand,
many children eat peanut
rice porridge for breakfast.
And wouldn’t you know it?
Peanut allergies are
relatively low there too.
But this could be a coincidence, right?
Thank goodness we have the researchers
at King’s College London.
They recruited 640
infants 4 to 10 months old
who were at risk of
developing a peanut allergy.
Half of the kids in the study
ate peanut snacks regularly.
Whereas the other half were
told to avoid peanuts entirely.
Then when the kids were 5
years old, they were brought in
for one final experiment.
All of them were instructed to eat
some type of peanut protein.
Of the kids who ate peanut
snacks regularly since infancy,
3.2% had developed a peanut allergy.
But the kids who avoided
peanuts altogether,
were much worse off.
More than 17% of them
had developed an allergy
to a nut that they had never consumed.
That means they were six
times more likely to develop
a peanut allergy than kids
who regularly ate peanuts.
Of course, this is just one study.
But if you know how allergies
work, it begins to make sense.
When someone with a peanut
allergy encounters a peanut
for the first time,
their immune system kicks into overdrive.
In this case, it sees
the peanut as a threat.
And it produces antibodies
in anticipation for a future encounter.
So the next time this
person eats a peanut,
antibodies activate an immune response
which the person experiences
as an allergic reaction.
Scientists aren’t sure
why some people experience
reactions and others don’t.
But they think that early
exposure can certainly help
at risk infants.
And luckily, allergies
aren’t always set in stone.
In a clinical trial earlier this year,
doctors recruited children
with peanut allergies.
They gave them a small
dose of peanut powder
and slowly increased the dose over time.
Sure enough, the children’s
immune systems became
accustomed to the powder
and nearly all of them
were able to build up a tolerance to it.
This process, called
desensitization, is a way of tricking
your immune system.
And it could, if used
correctly and safely,
become a way to treat children
who have a mild reaction to peanuts.
And although results have
been promising so far,
these treatments are not a cure.
What’s more, scientists
suspect that genetics
may also play a role
in allergy development.
So, before you take
matters into your own hands
and start feeding your babies
peanuts, talk to a doctor
and make sure that you’re in the clear.
After all, like everything in life,
peanuts should be enjoyed in moderation.