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Introducing Babies to Solid Foods Too Early Increases Allergy Risk

July 26, 2006

Feeding solid foods to infants before 6 months of age can increase the risk of allergies, while exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months may prevent the onset of allergic symptoms later in life, according to a paper published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

The paper is the first consensus document published in a peer-reviewed journal to recommend allergy-avoiding strategies for introducing solid foods to the infant diet.

"This report reinforces the consensus of organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, which recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months as optimal for infant and maternal health," said lead author Alessandro Fiocchi, MD, University of Milan Medical School, Milan, Italy. Dr. Fiocchi is chair of the Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), which prepared the consensus document.

Specific recommendations of the committee include:

"The timing after age 6 months at which specific foods should be introduced depends on a number of factors, including the individual infant's nutritional needs and risk for allergies," Dr. Fiocchi said. It is generally considered prudent not to introduce hen's eggs, fish, peanuts and nuts before the age of 12 months, or later in infants at high risk of allergy, the authors said.

The committee reached its consensus based on an evidence-based review of published research related to food allergies in infants.

The Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology is the official journal of ACAAI, a professional medical organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill., that promotes excellence in the practice of the subspecialty of allergy and immunology. The College, comprising more than 5,000 allergists-immunologists and related health care professionals, fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research.

REFERENCE:

Fiocchi A, Assa'ad A, Bahna S. Food allergy and the introduction of solid foods to infants: a consensus document. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2006;97;10-21.

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

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