The study, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, followed the eczema and asthma symptoms of nearly 7000 infants until the children were four years old. The authors reports that that the introduction of cow's milk, hen's egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and gluten to children before the age of six months was not associated with increased incidence of eczema or wheezing at any age.
“This study does not support the recommendation for delayed introduction of allergenic foods after age six months for the prevention of eczema and wheezing,” wrote the authors, led by Ilse Tromp of Erasmus University in The Netherlands.
“There does not seem to be a need to avoid solid foods, or allergenic foods, in young children who are otherwise well,” added Dr. Scott Sicherer, an independent expert in childhood allergies from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, USA.
Atopic diseases, such as atopic eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergy, are common in childhood.
Tromp and colleagues said that one important environmental factor that may influence the development of atopic diseases is early childhood nutrition.
“Health risks that have been suggested to be associated with early complementary feeding include excessive child weight gain, increased body mass index, respiratory illness during childhood, and autoimmune diseases,” said the researchers.
Due to the potential for early diet to affect health in such a significant way, for many years, doctors have recommended that parents delay feeding babies and infants foods that may contain common allergens.
However avoidance or delayed introduction of potentially allergenic foods has not been convincingly shown to reduce allergies, either in children considered at risk for the development of allergy or in those not considered to be at risk.
Tromp and colleagues reported that it initially appeared that children whose parents had given them nuts before they were six months old had more wheezing. But after considering smoking among the mothers and other risk factors for asthma, there was no longer any sign that nuts were linked to allergic problems, said the researchers.
“This population-based prospective birth cohort study failed to demonstrate that the timing of introduction of allergenic foods (cow's milk, hen's egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and gluten) was associated with eczema and wheezing in children 4 years or younger,” said Tromp and her team.
They concluded that the research results “do not support a delayed introduction of allergenic foods at an age older than 6 months for the prevention of atopic diseases eczema and wheezing.”
Dr. Sicherer added that the results of the study is just one of a number of studies “that have been pretty much giving us the same message.”
Source:Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine
Published online ahead of print,doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.93
"The Introduction of Allergenic Foods and the Development of Reported Wheezing and Eczema in Childhood"
Authors: I.I.M. Tromp, J.C. Kiefte-de Jong, A. Lebon, C.M. Renders, V.W.V. Jaddoe, et al