How to prevent food allergies in children: the new guidelines

Over the years, theories and positions of experts on how to prevent the appearance of food allergies in children have varied . Now the new guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics are trying to clarify the subject.Giving a child some new food to try is an important step that should be lived serenely primarily by parents. Unfortunately, sometimes this is not the case, especially because you are afraid of possible allergies. In recent years, several scientific researches have wanted to analyze which foods to introduce and when to better prevent food allergies.

Based on a detailed review of all available evidence on the subject, the American Academy of Pediatrics has published an updated guide on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to preventing food allergies and other allergic conditions. The new guidelines continue to “liberalize” the introduction of what are considered highly allergenic foods such as peanuts, fish and milk.

From scientific evidence, in fact, there seems to be no convincing evidence that delaying the introduction of certain foods can help prevent food allergies. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that a targeted and early introduction of peanuts already at the beginning of weaning can prevent the development of an allergy to these fruits in high-risk children (i.e. those who have a close relative who suffers from this allergy) .

The theory behind this is as follows: the gastrointestinal tract houses a unique set of immune system cells and when these cells get a taste of the allergenic proteins of different foods they learn to tolerate them.

Dr. David Stukus, a pediatric allergist and associate professor of pediatrics in the Allergy and Immunology Division at Nationwide Children’s Hospital stated that this is true ” until the food is introduced early and continuously “, which means there is a critical time window during which these foods should be introduced so as to promote tolerance. According to the doctor between 4 and 6 months (however, we remember in reality that the WHO recommends that infants take only breast milk or infant formula exclusively up to 6 months).

No evidence was found that avoiding allergenic foods during pregnancy or breastfeeding is functional in preventing allergic conditions. And the same goes for the use of special hydrolysed formulas, even if they are high risk children.

The latest report on weaning, which also includes potentially allergenic foods, explains that the same mechanism that protects children at high risk of developing food allergies probably also protects children at low or normal risk. A study that looked at these other foods, known as the Inquiring About Tolerance or EAT trial, recruited 1,303 3-month-old babies and randomly assigned them to receive six allergenic foods – peanuts, cooked eggs, cow’s milk, sesame, fish. and wheat – at that age or at 6 months. The team then monitored whether these children had developed food allergies between 1 and 3 years old.

Only 40% of parents had been able to keep up with the different frequency of food recommended by the study protocol. And the children whose parents had been able to follow the indications given on the foods to be inserted showed a significant reduction in allergies to peanuts and eggs.

Overwhelmingly, according to experts, the data point to highlighting the benefits of the early introduction of food. But this is not just an early introduction, we are talking about a basic diet that, from an early age, gets used to eating very different foods with advantages even in adulthood. It is in fact just then that 50% of people develop a food allergy.

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