Giving Allergenic Foods to Babies May Prevent Allergies

Author: talkhealth

Date: Apr 2016

A major new study into the effect of introducing allergenic foods into infants’ diets has found that giving babies small amounts of allergens such as peanut and eggs from the age of 3 months may help to prevent the development of allergies.

The Eat (Enquiring About Tolerance) study involved 1303 families with infant children and was conducted for the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The study split the families into two experimental groups. The first group followed standard advice – their babies were kept exclusively breastfeed until 6 months. The second group were asked to introduce six allergenic foods (alongside breastfeeding) – fish, cooked egg, milk, wheat, sesame, and nuts – at 3 months.

The study found that food allergy was lower in the group which started to consume allergenic foods at 3 months. As the researchers have highlighted, though, the difference was not deemed statistically significant. This may be partly down to the fact that, according to the researchers, introducing allergenic foods at 3 months was (although safe) not always easy – meaning that not every infant in the early introduction group was able to be given the allergenic foods as instructed. Among those who did consume the allergenic foods in the quantities recommended by the researchers, though, there was a reduction of overall food allergy of around two thirds. The effects were found to be most significant for peanut allergy.

Chief Scientific Adviser to the FSA Guy Poppy made clear, though, that the experiment was done under the close monitoring of experts and that the findings should not supplant existing guidance: 'while this study will be of interest to parents, we would advise them to continue to follow existing Government infant feeding advice. It should also be emphasised that this research was carried out under guidance of allergy professionals.' It should also be made clear that whole peanuts should never be given to children under the age of 5, because they are a choking hazard.

You can read the FSA’s full report [http://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/eat-study-final-report-summary.pdf], authored by Professor Gideon Lack, Dr Kirsty Logan, and Dr Michael Perkin, for more information.

Source: FSA Press Release dated 04.03.2016

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Last revised: 5 April 2016

Next review: 5 April 2018