How the Bamba Baby Saved My Baby

My oldest daughter’s second word was Bamba. Right after Abba (daddy).  Mommy was way down on the list. I was a new mother, a new immigrant, and it was a bit daunting that my child’s most important word was a peanut-flavored snack shaped like larvae. 

However, after living in Israel for 25 years, I now appreciate the wonder that is Bamba and how it not only has shaped a nation but possibly saved us all from nut-free school hallways forever.

My daughter in her Bamba loving phase

Back in 2015, a groundbreaking article was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It seems that Jewish children in the United Kingdom were ten times more likely to develop a peanut allergy than Israeli children of similar ancestry, perhaps due to the fact that by 7 months, most Israeli children have eaten a peanut based product (i.e. Bamba). 

The researchers performed a novel experiment and and gave children who were at risk of developing an allergy, tiny bits of Bamba (yes, Bamba is actually mentioned in the New England Journal!) every day for several years.  By the end of the study, 13.7% of the children who had avoided peanuts had developed an allergy, where only 1.9% of those who had eaten Bamba were allergic.

You don’t see those statistics every day, an extremely significant result that pretty much proves that avoidance to the possible allergen can create future allergy.  For years, most major medical centers in Israel have maintained allergy exposure programs, where children come to be exposed to the allergen in small amounts, and over time, the exposure is increased.  In this way, my friend’s daughter went from going into anaphylactic shock every time she had a milk product, to being able to eat ice cream cake at birthday parties.

Please don’t think I’m saying throw away your Epipen if you’re allergic to peanuts and just start eating Bamba. Those of us who have read the Law of Similars know that doesn’t end well. But it is pretty cool to realize that the snack that my daughter loved so much that she knew its name before mine, can actually save many children from childhood suffering, and even future death.  

It’s also an interesting wake-up call to us as parents to try and expose our children to more food options as toddlers and not limit them. Perhaps, this way, we can avoid future allergies and not create more.

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