Food allergies have risen 350% over the last 20 years.
Studies have shown that incidence of food allergies has dramatically increased in the past twenty years in the United States. There are many theories surrounding this issue, such as poor air and water quality, and prevalence of processed foods. The leading theory currently is the “hygiene hypothesis”, which indicates that modern kids live in overly clean environments and are no longer exposed to the germs and infectious diseases that are important to help the immune system form properly during childhood.
Nut allergies are definitely among the most dangerous allergies, especially because unlike allergies to milk, soy, and eggs, nut allergies usually carry on into adulthood. The Centers for Disease Control estimate between 150 and 200 deaths annually are attributed to adverse reactions to peanuts. Furthermore, studies have shown that quality of life for children with food allergies is even worse than the quality of life of children with diabetes.
In this context, a recent study published in The Lancet: Child & Adolescent Health reported the success of combined probiotic and peanut oral immunotherapy in children with peanut allergies. The study tested participants four years following the trials, and contests the oral immunotherapy used “provides long-lasting clinical benefit and persistent suppression of the allergic immune response to peanut”.
In the study, 24 participants received the probiotic, along with increasing amounts of peanut protein. 24 additional participants received the peanut protein and a placebo. The probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus was used “on the basis of its ability to induce regulatory T cells, antigen-specific IgA, and regulatory and T helper 1 cytokine responses”.
Four years following clinical trials, 16 of 24 participants given the probiotic and peanut protein reported having experienced no adverse reactions to peanuts since the immunotherapy. “This treatment has the potential to help people with all kinds of food allergies, not just peanuts. Eventually, we want this treatment to be available to everyone,” said senior author of the study, Professor Mimi Tang.