Parents may prevent food allergies in their children by introducing a range of foods, including peanuts and eggs, into their diet before they are six months old, new research has revealed.

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The EAT (Enquiring About Tolerance) study found that food allergy was reduced by 67 per cent in babies that were introduced early to sufficient quantities of the foods, compared to those solely breastfed and not introduced the foods early.

Dr Michael Perkin of St George’s, University of London, who co-led the study with Professor Lack, Kings College London, said this has been the first study of its kind.

“We recruited families when their baby was three months old and followed them up until three years of age,” he said.

“Not all families found it easy to introduce all the foods in sufficient quantity, but in those who did fed their infants sufficient amounts, overall food allergy and allergy to peanut and egg, were significantly reduced. The results add to a growing body of evidence that particularly for peanut, early consumption may be protective.”

The study involved 1300 babies with half the group following the current UK guidelines and exclusively breastfeeding their babies until six months of age.

The other group continued to breastfeed but also introduced the six food groups, including cooked eggs, peanuts, wheat, dairy, fish and sesame, into their baby’s diet from three months of age.

No peanut allergies were developed by babies who introduced peanut in the quantity recommended by the study team, and egg allergy was reduced by three quarters in those that consumed the recommend amount of egg.

The study found that weekly consumption of two grams of peanut protein, which is about one and half teaspoons of peanut butter, and four grams of egg protein (one small boiled egg) significantly reduced these respective food allergies.

The research was conducted at Kings College London and funded by the Food Standards Agency and the Medical Research Council.

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