Peanut allergies can be severe, but preventing the sensitivity may be as simple as exposing your infant to peanuts while they are young, according to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine

Based on observations that peanut allergies occurs less often in Israeli children than in Jewish children living in the UK, over 600 infants were selected by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The infants were aged four to six months and possessed severe eczema, egg allergies, or both. During the first five years of life, the infants were either fed approximately six grams of peanuts per week or avoided the food altogether.

At the end of five years, researchers measured which infants had developed a peanut allergy and which had not, finding that infants exposed to peanuts early in life had 81 percent fewer instances of peanut allergy.

The findings reverse earlier thoughts on how to prevent potentially dangerous allergies, said Daniel Rotrosen, MD, lead researcher and a director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease:

"Prior to 2008, clinical practice guidelines recommended avoidance of potentially allergenic foods in the diets of young children at heightened risk for development of food allergies. While recent studies showed no benefit from allergen avoidance, [ours] is the first to show that early introduction of dietary peanut is actually beneficial and identifies an effective approach to manage a serious public health problem."

The results of the study are consistent with thoughts offered by H. Robert Silverstein, medical director of The Preventive Medicine Center, a nonprofit organization that offers advice on living healthier. As Dr. Silverstein explained in his Big Think interview, lifestyle choices greatly influence whether genetic predispositions are expressed in adolescent and adult life:

"Everybody has a genetic predisposition to develop multiple disorders. But those disorders occur if and only if the person does what's necessary to express that weakness. ... Do what you’re supposed to, and then you’ll find out that you’ll avoid diseases, doctor visits, high co-pays, high health insurance, being rated by your insurance, having surgery, and so on and so on. So if you put the time in now, it’s sort of like an education. If you put the time in now, you get the benefit down the road."