Food allergy, food sensitization, infant feeding, birth cohort
In an effort to avoid atopic disease, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests delaying the introduction of foods complementary to breast milk until infants are 4-6 months of age. However, research on this issue remains controversial. Allergic sensitization, indicated by elevated serum Immunoglobulin E specific to food allergens (IgE>0.35 IU/ml), is a known risk factor for clinical food allergy.
Using data from the WHEALS birth cohort in Detroit, Joseph et al, in the April 2011 issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), explored the relationship between introduction of complementary food (including non-formula cow's milk) before age 4 months, and sensitization to egg, milk, or peanut by age 2-3 years.
All analyses accounted for breastfeeding and parental history of asthma or allergy. For the 594 maternal-infant pairs analyzed, the data suggested that early introduction of complementary food reduced infant risk of sensitization to peanut. A reduced risk of food sensitization was also observed for milk and egg (analyzed in combination) when a more stringent cut-off was used for specific IgE (>0.70 IU/ml).
Importantly, the reduced risk of food sensitization with early exposure to complementary food was only observed for infants with a family history of asthma or allergy. Study findings highlight the need for more research on infant feeding practices and risk of food allergy.
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is the official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.