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Preventing food allergies in babies and infants: Do we have it all wrong?

Published on Feb 17, 2011 with 0 comment

imageAllergists and primary care physicians, especially pediatricians, have observed first hand that the incidence of food allergies in infants and children has increased dramatically over the last few decades to “epidemic” proportions. Many theories have been presented to explain this disturbing trend; however most research in the past has focused on breast feeding and its affect on the development of allergy. A close examination of the medical literature reveals that true scientific evidence about the timing of solid food introduction is scarce at best, and conflicting at worst. The time-honored and well established approach has been to delay the introduction of highly allergenic foods into the infant’s diet; solid foods until six months of age, milk until 12 months, eggs until 2 years, and peanuts, tree nuts and fish until 3 years. It is a generally accepted notion, although not necessarily valid, that breast feeding alone is the ideal diet for the first six months of life and that it can minimize or delay the onset of atopic dermatitis (eczema) and other allergic diseases, including asthma.

But, new medical evidence has shown that the recommendations to delay the introduction of foods to infants as a means of preventing food allergies may the wrong approach altogether!

Recent studies have revealed very credible scientific evidence (and more is on the way) to suggest that the common practice of delaying the introduction of cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, and other foods may actually increase the child’s risk for developing food allergies. And, even more importantly, there is evidence to suggest that the early introduction of allergenic foods may actually prevent the development of the allergy to that food. It is thought that the decreased risk for the development of allergy by the early introduction of food is due to the induction of “oral tolerance”, i.e., the induction of a systemic immunologic hypo-responsiveness to a dietary protein.

Our entire approach to feeding newborns and infants may be “turned on its head” in the coming months to years. It is difficult to change one’s opinion and behavior about well accepted dogma; however, very exciting medical research may cause us to rethink the current approach which has resulted in an 18% increase in food allergies over the last 10 years.

In the opinion of TheOnlineAllergist, we are on the brink of some very exciting breakthroughs in both the prevention and treatment of food allergies. Stay tuned for more encouraging news soon.


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