Food diversity has been a hot topic in allergy since several clinical trials in high-risk children reported that early introduction of highly allergenic foods, especially peanut and egg, prevents food allergy later in life. This opened up the debate about changing recommendations about the timing of solid food introduction and the length of breast feeding to prevent allergic disease.
Exposure to food antigens and bacteria has been suggested to modulate immune tolerance, crucial for the later development of allergic disease. The timing of solid food introduction but also solid food diversity has become a research interest. Prior studies have concluded that higher food diversity during the first year of life might be protective against later development of allergic diseases in children.
In a study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers looked into food diversity and the results up to 15 years of age for 5 allergic outcomes.
- Allergic Rhinitis
- Environmental Allergies
- Food Allergies
In the study, children who had the most food diversity who were introduced to all 8 food groups during the first year of life had lower odds of developing eczema and allergies up to 15 years of age.
This is another study supporting the theory that introduction of a diverse amount of foods early in life can reduce the risk of allergies in the future. This study is large departure from the past where it used to be thought that avoidance of highly allergenic foods early in life reduced allergies in the future. Older guidelines specified avoiding foods such as nuts and shellfish in allergic susceptible children. Perhaps those guidelines has contributed to the rise of allergies in the United States and across the world.
But now more and more research is showing to introduce a broad range of foods to children at a younger age thereby reducing food allergies. As always speak to your pediatrician or pediatric allergy doctor if you have any questions on what foods and when to introduce them to your child.