Contrary to popular belief that eggs should not be introduced into the diet before the first birthday of the baby, a new study shows that parents who do not want their newborn babies to develop an egg allergy ought to feed them eggs in the first six months of life.
This finding was from a four-year study of 2,500 Victorian infants by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the University of Melbourne that showed that kids who were fed eggs in their first four to six months are at least three times less likely to become allergic to them in later life. The researchers say that parents who hold eggs for fear of allergies may increase the risk of an allergy developing.
One of the researchers, University of Melbourne PhD scholar Jennifer Koplin said, “What we found was that infants who started eating egg at four-to-six months of age have a lower risk of egg allergy compared to those who started eating egg after 12 months.” She explained that babies who ate egg in a cooked form such as boiled or poached, rather than baked in a cake or biscuit, fared even better. “Having this cooked egg at four to six months gave a fivefold lower risk of egg allergy compared to having this after 12 months of age,” she said. The study showed that of babies aged four to six months who ate cooked egg, 5.6 per cent developed an egg allergy, compared with 27.6 per cent of children who first ate cooked egg after 12 months.
Egg allergy is the commonest form of food allergy in infants and toddlers. Symptoms include hives, vomiting, diarrhea and anaphylaxis. Study leader Associate Professor Katie Allen said that more research in this area was needed and wanted to check on cow’s milk and nuts to in this respect. “Confirmation that early introduction is protective for other allergenic foods may help better inform parents in the future, and could have the potential to reverse the epidemic of childhood food allergy,” she said. The research forms part of a wider study led by Professor Allen at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute to track food allergy prevalence and causes among Victorian infants.
The study was published online yesterday by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.