Allergies : The Latest on Eggs and Peanuts: Introduce Them Early

Introducing babies to eggs and peanuts early on may help reduce their risk of developing food allergies, finds a new analysis. Researchers reviewed nearly 150 previous studies examining when babies were given foods that often trigger reactions, as well as their risk of food allergies or autoimmune diseases.

They discovered that the timing of introducing foods may affect allergy risk, but they did not find a similar link with autoimmune disease.

The researchers reported with "moderate certainty" that babies who were given eggs when they were 4 to 6 months old had a lower risk of developing an allergy to eggs. Kids given peanuts between 4 and 11 months old had a lower peanut allergy risk than babies who were given peanuts when they were older.

Although the evidence was not as strong for fish, the researchers found that giving a baby fish before 6 to 12 months of age may reduce the risk of nasal allergies or hay fever (allergic rhinitis). And they reported very low certainty that introducing it before 6 months to 9 months would reduce the risk of a food allergy.

The evidence surrounding gluten was clear: Timing does not appear to affect the likelihood of celiac disease.

The bottom line? "Delay of introduction of these foods may be associated with some degree of potential harm, and early introduction of selected foods appears to have a well-defined benefit," said Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, an allergy specialist at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

"These important points should resonate with allergy specialists, primary care physicians, and other helath care professionals who care for infants, as well as obstetricians caring for pregnant mothers, all of whom are important stakeholders in effectively conveying the message that guidance to delay allergen introduction is outdated," he said.

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