Early life nutrition and allergy

In the EuroPrevall project, a pan-European birth cohort was set up that showed infants and young children were mainly allergic to cow’s milk and egg, with allergies being rare in countries like Greece, and much more common in countries like the UK.

In the iFAAM project, a school-age follow up of the EuroPrevall and Baseline birth cohorts confirmed that the vast majority of young European children with confirmed hen’s egg or cow’s milk allergy became tolerant by early school age.

However, other food allergies to peanut or tree nuts persisted, affecting at least 1.4% of children, with rates again apparently varying between countries.

Preventing allergies

Analysis of dietary patterns in the EuroPrevall birth cohort suggested that an infant diet consisting of high levels of fruits, vegetables, and home-prepared foods is associated with less food allergy by the age of two years.

Since early life nutrition could modify the chance of a baby developing food allergies, studies have been undertaken across the world to discover how the introduction of solid foods might prevent the development of food allergies.

In iFAAM, a pooled analysis of data from four trials confirmed that the early introduction of peanut reduced peanut allergy, but evidence was less clear for other foods like egg.

Analysis of data and samples from the Enquiring About Tolerance (EAT) study showed that early introduction of egg was effective in preventing the development of food allergy in infants at high risk of developing food allergy.

This has significant implications for the new national infant feeding recommendations that are emerging around the world.