A new study by the NEJM claims food allergies can be avoided in breastfeeding infants if the allergenic foods are introduced early in life through a dose dependent approach. The results of the clinical trial study funded by the Food Standards Agency were published on May 5th, 2016.
The six major allergenic foods used included peanut, cooked egg, cow’s milk, sesame, whitefish and wheat. The prevalence of any food allergy was significantly lower in the early-introduction group (2.4%) than in the standard introduction group (7.3%). The prevalence of peanut allergy was found to be completely reduced and egg allergy was found in only 1.4% individuals as compared to the non-intervention group.
It was a UK based randomly controlled trial in which the six major allergy causing foods in infants — belonging from the areas of England and Wales — were introduced at an early age with increased frequency. It was seen a majority of the infants were less likely to develop the allergies to the particular foods upon increased consumption. Although the introduction of the allergy causing foods in infants was not easy, it was carried out successfully in a completely safe manner.
The aim of the study was to detect the ideal age for introducing allergic foods in the diet of breast milk feeding infants and that whether the introduction would prevent the formation of such allergic reactions or not. The study had an ‘intention-to-treat analysis’ design.
The research was carried out on 1,303 exclusively breast-fed infants with an average age of three months. The infants were randomly given the six major allergenic foods; they were categorized as the early-introduction group. Meanwhile, a standard introduction group was also formed which was subjected to exclusive breast-feeding to approximately six months of age, which is the recommended practice. Allergies were seen to occur in infants during the age of 1-3.
The number of infants with food allergies were seen to be lower in the early introduction group with only 5.6% developing an allergic reaction to one or more of the six foods, compared to the standard-introduction group, with 7.1% of the infants having food allergies. A total of 32 infants out of the 567 infants in the early-introduction group developed food allergies and in the standard introduction group 42 infants of 595 developed food allergies. In short, the prevalence of any food allergy was significantly lower in the early-introduction group (2.4%) than in the standard introduction group (7.3%).
The findings of the study suggest an overall lower significant risk of food allergies i.e., 67% as compared to the standard-introduction group. The prevalence of peanut allergy was the highest followed by egg allergy. The other food specific allergies were not very significant. The research concluded that giving infants 2g per week of peanuts or egg-white protein can lower the chances of having respective allergies.
The approval for the study was provided by the St Thomas’ Hospital Research Ethics Committee and the consent of parents or guardians was obtained by getting written consent forms signed. The safety profile of the trial was ensured by an independent data and safety monitoring committee and no anaphylactic reactions were reported.
The American College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) describes food allergy as a serious immune response shown by the body due to specific substances present in the food that might be recognized as harmful invaders and different chemicals that are released to fight those unwanted substances.
The common food allergens causing 90% of the major food allergies are: wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and soy. According to ACAAI, food allergies are most commonly found in babies and children and can also be developed in later years of life at any age.
According to CDC records, more than 50 million Americans suffer from some kind of allergy and food allergies are predicted to affect 4-6% of children and 4% of adults. The food allergy associated incidences of hospitalization in children less than 18 years of age reported during 2004-2006 were approximately 9,500 each year. It is an established fact that children with food allergy are 2-4 times more prone to have other health problems such as asthma as compared to the other normal healthy children of same age.
Statistical data from the US Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organization suggests that 15 million Americans suffer fromProtect Your Kids From Food Allergies By Giving Them Allergenic Food some kind of food allergy and every year emergency cases of food allergies are found to be around 200,000.
Food allergies can develop in infants from all genders, races and ethnicity and children whose parents have such allergies are prone to developing them. Some 90% of food allergies in Americans are caused by the six major allergens and the law requires food products to state whether they have allergen ingredients or not.