Nutritional Studies on Allergies

Breast Feeding Protects Against Allergies
Cow's milk proteins and other food antigens are well known to pass from nursing mothers to their babies. Several clinical studies in infants at risk for atopic disease found that exclusive breastfeeding reduces the incidence of this disease. "Sensitization to food antigens may occur already in utero because infants whose mothers avoid common allergenic foods during the whole pregnancy and then during the lactation period have a lower incidence of atopic eczema than infants whose mothers are on an unrestricted diet," German scientists at the Universitats-Kinderklinic in Wien reported. The researchers found that avoiding common allergenic foods only during the last three months of pregnancy had no effect.

Source: F. Haschke et al., "Does Breast Feeding Protect from Atopic Diseases?," Padiatr Padol 1990; 25(6): 415-20.

Dietary Prevention of Allergies in Infancy Predisposes to Later Health
Prolonged breast feeding, avoidance of a hydrolyzed milk formula, and delayed introduction of dairy food, eggs, fish, nuts and soybeans are linked to reduced incidence of allergic symptoms and reactions, not only in infants and young children, but also for as long as puberty and the teenage years. A medical researcher at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, Canada, reported that these effects could last for as long as 18 years. "Diet and nutrition in early life are crucial for the development of allergic and infectious disease throughout childhood and into adulthood," the researcher concluded.

Source: R. K. Chandra, "Food Allergy and Nutrition in Early Life: Implications for Health," Proc Nutr Soc May 2000: 59(2): 273-7.

Dairy Main Cause of Food Allergies in Children
Food was associated with 82.9% of allergic reactions in school-aged children, and among these milk was involved in 32% of the cases, the Division of Allergy & Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City recently reported. In a study of 132 children with known allergies, 58% reported allergic reactions in the past 2 years. Eighteen percent experienced 1 or more reactions in school. After milk, the most offending foods were peanuts in 29% of cases, eggs in 18%, tree nuts in 6%, and miscellaneous foods in 3% of the remaining cases.

Source: A. Nowak-Wegrzyn et al., "Food-Allergic Reactions in Schools and Preschools," Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2001 Jul; 155(7); 790-5.

Infant Dairy Allergies Persist through Childhood
In a study of 56 10-year-olds who had symptoms of cow's milk allergy (CMA) in infancy, researchers in Finland reported that nearly half continued to suffer from dairy-related allergic symptoms compared to 10% of subjects in a control group. "The growth of the former CMA subjects was retarded compared with the control subjects," the scientists reported. They concluded that a high proportion of children with CMA in infancy continued to have persistent symptoms even after small-dose tolerance to dairy had been achieved in the intervening years.

Source: J. Kokkonen et al., "Residual Intestinal Disease after Milk Allergy in Infancy," J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutri Feb 2001; 32(2): 156-61.

Dairy-Free Diet Improves Children's Health
In a study of 114 children suspected of cow's milk allergy at the Beatrix Children's Hospital and the University Hospital Groningen, the Netherlands, researchers reported that 66 improved when put on a diet free of dairy milk.

Source: N. K. Olsder et al., "Standardized Multidisciplinary Diagnosis of Cow's Milk Protein Allergy in Children," Ned Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde 1995 Aug 19: 139(33): 1690-4.

Sensitivity to Milk in Young European Adults
In a cross-sectional study of 206 women aged 27 years old selected at random, European researchers reported that 20% of the subjects reported abdominal discomfort after dairy product intake, while only 6% had been diagnosed as lactose intolerant. Sensitivity to milk is generally estimated to be 3-6% in this population, but may be much larger. "Milk hypersensitivity may be as common in adults as in infants," the medical investigators concluded.

Source: L. Pelto et al., "Milk Hypersensitivity in Young Adults," Eur J Clin Nutri Aug 1999; 53(8): 620-4.

Multiple Food Allergens on the Rise
French scientists report that between 2 and 5% of the general population is allergic to cow's milk and that multiple food allergens are on the rise. Double-blind placebo controlled milk challenges are mandatory for the diagnosis and sometimes take up to 8 days. Removing dairy products from the diet and protein supplementation from nondairy sources is helpful for treating this condition.

Source: D.A. Moneret-Vautrin, "Cow's Milk Allergy," Allerg Immunol 1999 Jun; 31(6): 201-10.

Asthma and Lung Allergies Higher in Dairy Workers
Dairy farmers and other workers in the dairy industry have a high prevalence of respiratory symptoms. In a study of 1015 small-scale dairy farmers in Sweden, researchers found that 27% had atopy. Environmental tobacco smoke and exposure to different animal species were ruled out as risk factors. In a Danish study of employees and former workers in a cheese-making plant, researchers found that nearly two-thirds produced antibodies associated with allergic responses. Exposure to penicillium camemberti in the cheese was cited as the probable cause.

Sources: M. Kronqvist et al., "Risk Factors Associated with Asthma and Rhinoconjunctivitis among Swedish Farmers, Allergy 1999 Nov; 54(11) : 1142-9 and S. Dahl et al., "Cheese-Packers' Disease—Respiratory Complaints at a Cheese-Packing Dairy," Ugeskr Laeger 1994 Oct 3; 156(40): 5862-5.

Natural Foods Protect Children from Allergies
In a case control study, Swedish scientists reported that children at Anthroposophic schools were less susceptible to developing allergies than other children. Altogether 295 children, aged 5 to 13 in the Rudolph Steiner schools were compared to 380 children of the same age in neighboring public schools. Compared to the usual students, the Steiner students ate more natural foods, including fermented vegetables, had been exposed to only about half as many antibiotics in the past, and 18% had been immunized against measles, mumps, and rubella compared to 93 percent of the control group. The researchers concluded that these dietary and lifestyle factors may lessen the risk of developing childhood allergies.

Source: J. S. Alm et al., 'Atopy in Children of Families with an Anthroposophic Lifestyle,' Lancet 353: 1457-8, 1999.

Allergy to Pizza
Though less common than other allergens, susceptibility to pizza is increasing as the food's popularity has risen in modern society. An Italian researcher hypothesizes that the increased availability of pizza, number of varieties, and different spices and artificial additives added to pizza may be responsible for this trend. "In the beginning, it was the food of the poor, but was made with natural foods, but nowadays has been enriched by a number of ingredients and flavorings, thus multiplying the risk of allergic reactions," the study found.

Source: A. Cantani, "Allergy to Pizza," Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 1999 Sep-Oct; 3(5):235-6.

Macrobiotic Food Reduces Chemical Sensitivity
In a study of 160 patients suffering from chemical sensitivity, including multiple allergies, those who observed a macrobiotic way of eating, high in whole grains, vegetables, beans, and sea vegetables for at least one year reported an average decrease in symptoms of 76 percent. A macrobiotic dietary approach "should be considered for those with persistent symptoms triggered by chemical exposure," the researcher concluded.

Source: S. Rogers, M.D., "Improvement in Chemical Sensitivity with the Macrobiotic Diet," Journal of Applied Nutrition 48: 85-92, 1996.

GM Soy May Cause Fatal Allergic Reactions
Rapeseed and soybeans modified with genes from Brazil nuts to boost their low cysteine and methionine content were withdrawn from development after studies showed that they could cause deadly allergic reactions in people sensitive to the nuts. "Since genetic engineers mix genes from a wide variety of species," noted Dr. Rebecca J. Goldburg of the Environmental Defense Fund, "other genetically engineered foods may cause similar health problems. People who are allergic to one type of food may suddenly find they are allergic to many more."

Source: J. Nordlee et al., "Identification of a Brazil-Nut Allergen in Transgenic Soybeans," New England Journal of Medicine 334:688-92, 1996.

Pesticide Linked to Allergies
Nearly 50% of farm workers who harvest vegetables sprayed with a common pesticide developed allergies in one month after picking, and 70% developed reactions after 3 months. The study examined ordinary Bt, the most common pesticide spliced into genetically engineered food. An environmental expert, Mary Howell Martens, expressed concern that "many, many more people will be exposed to the Bt toxin and will likely be sensitized by eating crops engineered with the gene for the toxin."

Source: "Bt Is as Bt Does," Science News, Sept. 4, 1999.