By 2010 it was clear that peanut allergies were a growing problem. And it wasn’t just doctors diagnosing them more often — more kids were presenting at emergency rooms with serious symptoms, and occasionally dying. Not surprisingly, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with advice to not feed peanut containing foods to babies. It had become a serious problem and so pediatricians came up with this as the logical solution. It makes sense, too, peanuts-containing foods were causing problems so don’t feed it to the kids.
They kept studying peanut reactions for a few years, though, and noticed it didn’t seem to be helping.
Dr. Gideon Lack, a British pediatrician visiting Israel, did some questioning of doctors who said peanut allergies weren’t a big thing there. They also explained that a hugely popular baby snack contained peanuts.
So Dr. Lack started a well-controlled study of babies where half were fed peanuts and other half weren’t (basically). Sure enough, they followed those kids for a few years and found that indeed the ones fed peanuts got WAY fewer peanut allergic reactions. It was, in fact, better to feed you kids some form of peanut containing foods.
The prior advice — consensus — was wrong.
But here’s the important thing: they TESTED their advice. That’s soooo important. The tests showed that what sounded logical didn’t work. High quality research, with sound methodology and sufficient numbers, was published in 2015 and found that 4 to 11 month old babies fed about 4 heaping teaspoons of peanut butter each week were nearly *80%* less likely to develop a peanut allergy by their fifth birthday. That’s huge.
This is where science wins: In 2017 the AAp changed its advice to reflect the new knowledge. Further research refined how best to reduce all allergies and testing continues.
Science wins BECAUSE its able to change as better evidence comes along. There’s a cycle of hypothesize what seems like it should work, test, refine, and repeat. Knowledge gets more reliable.
An important takeaway is that consensus based on this type of science represents our most reliable knowledge.