Infants who are introduced to certain allergenic foods early can develop resistance to allergies caused by them, say researchers. Infants who are at a higher risk of developing allergies to certain kinds of foods can develop resistance to them when introduced to them at the age of 3 months as against at 6 months, they said.

This was possible in spite of low adherence (compliance of a patient to medical advice and treatment) to the prescribed regime, said researchers from King's College London and St George's, University of London.

The research dealt with the subject of early introduction of allergenic foods such as eggs and peanuts in the diets of infants and its effectiveness in preventing the development of food allergies in them. It was discussed in a group of papers published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Obstacles that prevented adherence to the process of early introduction were also highlighted in the studies.

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Also, the research is the extension of the Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT) study. It involved the recruitment of over 1,300 three-month-old infants from England and Wales. These infants were sorted into two groups: Early Introduction Group (EIG) and Standard Introduction Group (SIG).

Infants belonging to EIG were introduced to six allergenic foods including eggs and peanuts along with breastfeeding from three months of age. SIG had infants that were breastfed exclusively for 6 months. Results suggested that the inclusion of allergenic foods from infancy helped develop resistance to those foods at a higher level.

Early exposure to allergenic food helps

In children with any food sensitisation at the time of recruitment, only 19.2% of children in the EIG developed food allergy, while it was 34.2 percent of children in the SIG. Among infants sensitised to peanut at enrolment, only 14 percent in the EIG developed a peanut allergy, while the numbers for the infants in the SIG was at 33.3 percent.

Among infants sensitized to egg at enrollment, 20.0 percent in the EIG developed an egg allergy compared 48.7 percent in the SIG. No significant differences were found in food allergy rates between the two groups who did not have sensitivity to any food at the time of recruitment. Increased risk of developing food allergy was not associated with the early introduction of such foods to infants who were not at a high risk of developing allergies.

"As more research about early introduction of specific food allergens continues, we will get closer to new early introduction recommendations," said Professor Gideon Lack, EAT Study Principal Investigator and Professor of Paediatric Allergy, School of Life Course Sciences at King's College London

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Reasons for non-adherence

Non-adherence to the protocol of introducing allergenic foods has also reflected in the results of the study. It was observed mostly among those with higher maternal age, not of Caucasian ethnicity, and those who had lower quality of maternal life.

Looking further into factors behind non-adherence, one paper said three major themes that led to it such as -- children refusing to consume allergenic foods, concerns of the caregiver regarding the possibility of an allergic reaction and practical constraints of lifestyle.

Though only 42 percent within the EIG group adhered to protocol of sustained consumption of high doses of five or more early introduction foods, the results were promising, said researchers.