Can allergy risk be reduced?

By Judy Buttriss

- Last updated on GMT

Buttriss: ‘Controversial findings bring into question the value of deliberate avoidance’
Buttriss: ‘Controversial findings bring into question the value of deliberate avoidance’

Related tags: Allergy, Food allergy, Uk

Approximately 6% of British children under the age of six develop a food allergy, while 20% develop allergic diseases such as eczema and asthma (not always triggered by foods).

Although many outgrow these allergies, they are distressing and sometimes, even life-threatening.

Despite efforts to prevent allergies through strategies such as exclusive breastfeeding and delayed introduction of allergenic foods, allergies are increasing – peanut allergy alone has doubled in 10 years.

Critical period

Based on weaning practices elsewhere, a critical period has been suggested when the introduction of allergenic foods actually reduces risk of becoming allergic, rather than increasing it.

Two UK studies (one on peanut allergy and the other on a range of food allergens) have been investigating this hypothesis.

Sustained consumption

In the first study, sustained consumption of peanut products during the first 11 months, compared with peanut avoidance, was associated with a significant fall in the frequency of peanut allergy at the age of five among high risk children.

If sustained, these controversial findings bring into question the value of deliberate avoidance.

Does this apply to other allergens? Results of the second study are expected soon.

  • Judy Buttriss is director general of the British Nutrition Foundation

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