Early introduction of certain foods known to cause allergies -- like peanuts and eggs -- to infants can prevent them from developing an allergy even if the children do not adhere strongly to the diet, a study says. The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, is a continuation from The Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT) study in the UK where over 1300 three-month old infants were recruited and placed into one of two groups.
One was introduced to six allergenic foods (including peanut and egg) from three months of age alongside breastfeeding, and another group was exclusively breastfed for six months. The group which received the allergenic foods was called the Early Introduction Group (EIG), and the one which was only breastfed was termed the Standard Introduction Group (SIG).
The researchers, including those from King's College London in the UK, said among children with food sensitisation at study enrolment, about 34 per cent in the SIG developed food allergy, compared to 19 per cent of the infants in the EIG. The researchers said one-third of the infants who were only breast fed before developed a peanut allergy, versus 14.3 per cent in the EIG.
In the infants who were previously sensitised to egg, 48.7 per cent of them developed an egg allergy in the SIG compared to one-fifth of them in the EIG. According to the researchers, an early introduction of allergenic foods to infants who were not already predisposed to food allergies was not linked to an increased risk of developing a food allergy.
There were no significant differences in the allergy rates between the two groups of infants who were not sensitised to any food at the time of enrolment.
"These results have significant implications and are informative when it comes to infant feeding recommendations concerning allergies and the development of new guidelines," said study co-author Gideon Lack from King's College London.
"If early introduction to certain allergenic foods became a part of these recommendations, we also have data that tells us what populations may need extra support when it comes to implementing the recommendations," Lack said.