A recent study at the Imperial College of London has revealed that feeding babies eggs and peanuts may reduce the likelihood that they develop an allergy to the foods later in life.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Robert Boyle has said “this new analysis pools all existing data, and suggests introducing eggs and peanuts at an early age may prevent the development of an egg or peanut allergy, the two most common childhood food allergies.”
This is a progressive statement from the Doctor who in the past has advised against feeding these foods to babies urging “parents to delay giving allergenic foods such as egg, peanut, fish and wheat to their infant.”
What did the Study Show?
Through an extensive meta-analysis, the study has shown that children who started eating eggs between the ages of four and six months had a 40% reduced risk of developing an egg allergy compared to children who tried eggs for the first time later in life.
It was also revealed that children who consumed peanuts between the ages of four and eleven months had a 70% reduced risk of a peanut allergy compared to children who ate them at a later stage. The authors of the study caution readers that these statistics are only estimates based on a small number of studies.
Dr. Boyle has advised that food and egg products should not be introduced to infants with existing food allergies or other allergic conditions such as eczema. Although it may seem obvious, he added that whole nuts should not be given to babies or toddlers due to the potential choking hazard. Instead, he suggests introducing the food to your child through peanut butter.
The UK Food Standards Agency, who commissioned the study, commented on the research suggesting that “the Government is considering these important findings as part of its review of complementary feeding for infants”. The agency added that “families should continue to follow the Government’s current long-standing advice to exclusively breastfeed for around the first six months of age because of the health benefits to mothers and babies.”
Food Allergies in Australia
In 2012, it was reported that 17% of Australians aged 2 years or over (or 3.7 million people) reported avoiding a food due to an allergy or intolerance. Cases of food-related anaphylaxis are increasing within Australia and the NSW Food Authority has detailed that allergens are the second most common reason for food safety investigations within the State. These alarming statistics show that to prepare, handle and serve food safely a thorough understanding of food allergies is vital.
For further information on food allergies and food safety in general, please refer to the AIFS Resources page.