A new study is taking a close look at how maternal diet may affect future food allergies in children and young adults. Clare Mills, professor of allergy in the Institute of Inflammation and Repair at the University of Manchester, UK, is coordinating an EU-funded project looking back at data collected over a decade.
Data extracted from a very large study done over a decade
In particular, information on children, now aged six, and their mothers is available for examination. The children’s diets and allergies were logged over the years as well as their mothers’ before they were born. “Our aim is to see the allergy outcomes of their diet in early life, and even before they were born, as we have information on their mothers’ diets and on their weaning,” explained Mills. “This work has been coordinated at the Charite in Berlin and involves 12,000 people in samples from Iceland to Greece.”
Early data may change the way we introduce some foods
The research project is in the early stages but some data is already confirming some theories. For instance, they have found that children in Israel start eating nuts much earlier than European children and they have lower instances of nut allergies. “This means that the current advice that young children should avoid nuts may make things worse,” she noted. More research needs to be done.
Not just eating the food, but how the food is consumed
The cohort is large enough that Mills believes they can also examine not only the fact of a food allergen being consumed, but the effect of the various ways it has been prepared. “Someone might react very differently to nuts in a cookie or in a chocolate dessert,” said Mills. If the group can successfully create meaningful risk models, food manufacturing plants could alter the way they clean machinery and prepare foods.
Particular focus on maternal diet and breast feeding
“There is reason to worry about maternal diet during breast feeding and pregnancy with regard to food allergy outcomes in children. The diet may alter the nutrients and proteins in breast milk and affect the immune system. Studies thus far mostly suggest that a ‘healthy’ diet is important,” explained Scott Sicherer, professor of pediatrics, allergy and immunology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.