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Does introducing solid foods cause allergies?



Research leaves parents with more questions than answers


According to a recent study by Finnish researchers, the late introduction of solid foods, including eggs, oats and wheat, is associated with an increased risk of food allergies by the age of 5. This new research leaves some parents frustrated since the results conflict with previous recommendations to delay the introduction of solid foods until 6 months or longer to avoid possible food allergies.

 

Delaying solid foods

 

Waiting to introduce certain foods to infants until after 6 months of age is associated with an increased risk for sensitivity to food allergens, according to Dr. Bright I. Nwaru, of the University of Tampere, Finland. He and other colleagues reported their findings in an online article in Pediatrics in December.

The study defined “late introduction” as after 4 months for potatoes, 5 months for oats, 7 months for rye, 6 months for wheat, 5.5 months for meat, 8.2 months for fish, and 10.5 months for eggs. The report also indicated that delaying the introduction of potatoes, rye, wheat, and fish was linked to an increased sensitivity to inhaled allergens.

 

Previously, organizations such as the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) presented findings indicating that the optimal age for the introduction of “selected supplemental foods” is 6 months old. In a paper published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, research findings were presented that dairy products should be introduced at 12 months, hen’s eggs at 24 months, and peanut, tree nuts, fish, and seafood should not be introduced until at least 36 months.


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Which advice to follow?

 

The results of the study concluded that “available information suggests that early introduction can increase the risk of food allergy, (and) that avoidance of solids can prevent the development of specific food allergies.”


This conflicting information leaves parents wondering which advice to follow: the advice they may have received with their first child or the new research they read when they have their third.

 

“With almost two years of breastfeeding and a cautious approach to feeding age-appropriate foods as it relates to allergens, I found myself dumbfounded that ‘my child’ would even be remotely susceptible to a food allergy,” says Susan Bagley, who lives in West Point. Her daughter’s nut allergy was discovered when she had a serious anaphylactic reaction at the age of 4.


READ MORE: My child has a severe food allergy. Now what?


Bagley’s daughter was born around the same time that the research came out from ACAAI. Along with other parents, she followed the guidelines that were made available to her at the time.

Continue reading about the delaying of foods and allergies here.

Janine Boldrin is a freelance writer who lives in West Point, NY with her husband and three children.