It’s an old peanut: to avoid food allergies, you must avoid eating peanuts for as long as possible. At least that’s what the traditional medical science recommends.

But new research casts doubt on government health recommendations.

The study, published in the November issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, shows that children who avoided peanut in infancy and early childhood were 10 times as likely to develop peanut allergy as those who were exposed to peanuts.

Researchers measured the incidence of peanut allergy in 8,600 Jewish school-age children in the United Kingdom and Israel.

Prevalence of peanut allergy in the United Kingdom was estimated at 1.85 percent, versus 0.17 percent in Israel.

At 9 months of age, 69 percent of Israeli children were eating peanuts, compared to 10 percent of those in the U.K.

Dietary guidelines in the United Kingdom, Australia and – until earlier this year – the United States advise avoidance of peanut consumption during pregnancy, breastfeeding and infancy.

“The most obvious difference in the diet of infants in both populations occurs in the introduction of peanut,” lead author George Du Toit, MD, FAAAAI, wrote in the article.

While researchers suggest these recommendations could be behind the increase in peanut allergy in these countries, they cautioned that further evidence is needed before those guidelines should be changed.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) cautions that although the results are promising, they shouldn’t translate to changes in treatment just yet.

 “While this study’s findings provide optimism for prevention of peanut allergy in the future, randomized, controlled trials are needed to verify that early introduction of peanut is indeed effective,” said Jacqueline A. Pongracic, MD, FAAAAI, vice chair of the AAAAI Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee.

Peanut allergy affects an estimated 3 million Americans, according to the AAAAI. It is one of the most common triggers of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction.

The incidence of peanut allergy has been on the rise in the United States, doubling in the five-year period from 1997-2002.

An allergist/immunologist is the best-qualified medical professional to diagnose and treat food allergies and other allergic diseases.