Researchers from the Australian National University have discovered that children who only receive breast milk during the first six months have a higher risk of developing a nut allergy. The study has been published in the online issue of International Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers from the ANU’s College of Medicine, Biology and Environment’s Medical School, and the ACT Health Directorate examined the association between breastfeeding and nut allergies by surveying parents whose children started primary school in the area, using the ACT Kindergarten Health Check Questionnaire.

Parents had to report on various factors, including the child’s feeding habits during the first six months and whether their child suffered from a nut allergy. The results demonstrated that the number or ACT children that suffer nut allergies are increasing and that those who were breast fed for the first half year had a higher tendency to develop a nut allergy.

Study author Marjan Kljakovic, who is a Professor of General Practice at the ANU Medical School, declared: “Some 3.9 per cent of children starting school in the ACT have a parent-reported nut allergy, which is almost twice the rate of British children of the same age.”

The researchers found that the chances of developing a nut allergy was 1.5 times higher in children who were fed solely on breast milk during their first six months of life compared with those, who were fed other foods and drinks that were found to be protected against nut allergy.

Professor Kljakovic remarked: “Our results contribute to the argument that breast feeding alone does not appear to be protective against nut allergy in children – it may, in fact, be causative of allergy. Over time, health authorities’ recommendations for infant feeding habits have changed, recommending complementary foods such as solids and formula be introduced later in life.”

He continued saying:

“Despite breast feeding being recommended as the sole source of nutrition in the first six months of life, an increasing number of studies have implicated breast feeding as a cause of the increasing trend in nut allergy. Peanut allergy accounts for two-thirds of all fatal food-induced allergic reactions. It is important for us to understand how feeding practices might be playing a part.”

Written by Petra Rattue