Baby being fed solids

Introduction of peanuts and eggs before children turn one helps to prevent food allergy, a new global report has confirmed.

Dr Victoria SorianoThe paper published in Pediatrics, is the first of its kind to compare all the existing evidence on introducing solids and allergenic foods.

The research, led by Dr Victoria Soriano (pictured, right) of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, University of Melbourne, and a member of the National Allergy Centre of Excellence (NACE) and Centre for Food & Allergy Research (CFAR), screened 32 systematic reviews, including 410 papers, which looked at different ages for starting solid foods and its impact on a variety of health issues.

“We know infant and child nutrition is key for healthy cognitive and physical development; however, doctors and families often face challenges as a result of research diversity, as well as multiple, separate recommendations about how and when infants should start foods and the harms and benefits to a child’s overall health,” she said.

“To help, we have consolidated the evidence on the short and long-term health outcomes related to when solid foods and potentially allergenic foods are introduced into the infant diet.”

The review showed:

  • Peanut and egg should be introduced from four to 11 months to prevent food allergy; however, age at first solid food introduction was not associated with food allergy.
  • Introducing solids before four months may increase the risk of childhood obesity.
  • There is a lack of evidence regarding milk and wheat introduction and milk and wheat allergy, respectively.
  • The age of introducing solids was not associated with eczema.
  • The age at introduction of gluten was not associated with celiac disease.
  • There is a lack of research on the link between food introduction and bone health, gastrointestinal diseases, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergic rhinitis.

The most common health issues researched in infants, but not necessarily linked to food introduction, were: food allergy, asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis, celiac disease, obesity and body weight changes, type 1 diabetes and iron deficiency.

“Our next steps are to examine gaps in the literature for further investigation and to work with policymakers to ensure allergen introduction recommendations are reflected in general infant feeding guidelines,” Dr Soriano said.

Find out more about food allergy research underway at the Murdoch Children’s and across Australia in the NACE Allergy Studies Directory.