The age at which allergenic foods should be introduced to breast fed infants is unclear. With recent studies showing the benefit of early introduction of peanut, Peanut Allergy Prevention, a study published in the New England Journal evaluated whether early introduction of allergenic foods in the diets of breast-fed infants would protect against the development of food allergy.
2 study groups were evaluated.
- Exclusively breast fed infants at 3 months of age were assigned an early introduction of 6 allergenic foods (peanut, cooked egg, cow’s milk, sesame, white fish and wheat).
- Exclusively breast fed infants at 6 months of age were exposed to the same allergenic foods.
The authors found a food allergy to 1 or more of the foods in the 6 month group to be 7.1% and in the 3 month group to be 5.6%
The prevalence of any food allergy was significantly lower in the 3 month group than the 6 month group, as well as the prevalence of of peanut allergy (0% vs 2.5%) and egg allergy (1.4% vs 5.5%). The consumption of more peanut or egg white protein was associated with a significantly lower prevalence of the respective allergies compared with less consumption.
This study suggests that the possibility of prevent allergy by early introduction of multiple allergenic foods in healthy breast fed infants might depend on timing and dose of these foods.
Since the ground breaking LEAP study advocating the early introduction of peanut to children, we are seeing more and more evidence of the benefit of this approach. This study also showed the benefit of early introduction of other allergenic foods (egg, cow’s milk, sesame, white fish and wheat) in exclusively breast fed babies. This does not work every time though as food allergies were still seen in the 3 month treatment group.
It is important to speak with your pediatrician or your pediatric allergist about the early introduction of these foods, as they could also cause an allergy reaction even on the first exposure of these allergenic foods. Many of these foods can pass through the breast milk when the mother ingests them, rendering the child allergic on their first taste of an allergenic food.
Conclusion: The prevalence of any food allergy was significantly lower in the early introduction group.