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Food allergy: how do perinatal conditions affect its development?

Published online: September 10, 2018

Food allergy, defined as a reproducible adverse immune response to food proteins, represents a global public health concern and is also strongly associated with asthma. Although there is currently a growing interest in potentially aetiological environmental components, little is known about early life risk factors for food allergy, such as perinatal influences. Several studies have proposed that caesarean delivery is a risk factor for later development of asthma and atopic disease. Preterm birth and low birth weight have also been linked to an increased risk of asthma. However, there is still insufficient and conflicting data on the impact of perinatal factors on the development of food allergy in children.

In a nationwide Swedish cohort study recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Mitselou and colleagues examined the association between perinatal characteristics and future risk of food allergy in children. The authors used data from health care registers on over 1 million children born in Sweden in 2001-2012.

The researchers analyzed the association between cesarean delivery, preterm birth, low birth weight and other perinatal conditions and the development of food allergy up to the age of 13.

Mitselou et al found an increased risk of future food allergy in children born after cesarean delivery, large for gestational age (LGA) or with a low 5-minute Apgar score. In contrast, the analysis showed that children born very preterm were at a lower risk of food allergy.

This study suggests that children born after cesarean delivery are at increased risk of developing food allergy. Inversely, the study found a decreased risk of food allergy in children born very preterm. The authors’ findings illustrate the impact of early life influences on the development of food allergy.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

Caesarean delivery, preterm birth and risk of food allergy - Nationwide Swedish cohort study of over 1 million children Mitselou and colleagues