Official guidelines from leading public health bodies state that breast-milk alone should be fed to babies for the first six months of their lives. However, new research suggests that doing so could leave youngsters wide open to a range of sever food allergies in later life.
Severe food allergies have the potential to be anything from highly inconvenient to fatal. In the case of nut allergy suffers, minimal exposure can trigger catastrophic reactions that without immediate medical assistance can kill.
Curiously, research has shown that when allergy-inducing foods are introduced to babies from a very young age, they become much less likely to develop an allergy.
A pair of recent studies brought to light new evidence to support the theory – the first being a follow-up to groundbreaking research published in 2015. The study found that the strategy of early introduction of foods containing peanuts produced an allergy-prevention effect that continued at least until the children were aged 5. In addition, the benefits didn’t alter when the children involved in the study abstained from foods containing peanuts for a full year.
In the second study, researchers focused on egg allergies as well as peanut allergies. The results showed a clear link between decreased allergy risk in those than that were given food containing peanuts at the age of 3 months, than those who were fed solely on breast-milk.
The results of both studies were added to the New England Journal of Medicine just before the weekend.
Research suggests that approximately 2% of kids in the United States are affected be peanut allergies, while 8% of children under the age of 3 have at least one food allergy.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the results of the pioneering study from 2015 clearly “show that early introduction of peanut can prevent the development of allergy to it.” He stated that experts must immediately consider the data and use it as a basis for altering standard approaches to food allergy prevention in kids.
Among the larger study group, just 1.9% of the children who were fed food containing peanuts from an early age developed an allergy. By contrast, the allergy rate was a much higher 13.7% among those who did not consume any peanut protein.
As it stands, that World Health Organization’s official guidelines state that infants should be fed breast-milk exclusively for the first six months of their lives. This would in turn means going against the recommendations of those behind the latest studies and potentially increasing the risk of the child developing food allergies.
Peanut allergies have the potential to send the body into almost immediate anaphylaxis – a whole-body reaction that leads to tightening of the airways and can be fatal.
“Evidence is really building up,” commented Hong Kong pediatrician, Dr. Gary Wong.
“It appears early introduction would be better off than avoidance.”