Allergies to foods — like nuts, egg, milk or wheat — are caused by the malfunctioning and over-reacting of the immune system triggering symptoms of rashes, swelling, vomiting and wheezing.
The study showed that children who started eating egg between the ages of four and six months had a 40 per cent reduced risk of egg allergy compared to children who tried egg later in life.
Children who ate peanuts between the ages of four and eleven months had a 70 per cent reduced peanut allergy risk compared to children who ate the food later.
Further, the researchers also found that where 5.4 per cent of people with egg allergy was introduced to egg between four and six months of age, 24 cases per 1,000 people were reduced.
For peanuts, with 2.5 per cent of people the introduction to the food between four and eleven months, 18 cases reduced per 1,000.
Until now parents were advised to delay giving allergenic foods such as egg, peanut, fish and wheat to their infant.
However, “this new analysis pools all existing data, and suggests introducing egg and peanut at an early age may prevent the development of two of the most common allergies,” said lead Author Robert Boyle, at Imperial College London.
In addition, the team analysed milk, fish (including shellfish), tree nuts – almonds – and wheat, but did not find enough evidence to show introducing these foods at a young age reduces allergy risk.
The researchers cautioned against introducing egg and peanut to a baby who already has a food allergy, or has another allergic condition such as eczema.
“If your child falls into these categories, talk to your doctor before introducing these foods,” Boyle said.
Moreover, Boyle also noted that whole nuts should not be given to babies or toddlers due to choking hazard, “If you decide to feed peanut to your baby, give it as smooth peanut butter,” he said.
For the study, which is the largest analysis of evidence on the effect of feeding allergenic foods to babies, scientists analysed data from 146 studies and involved more than 200,000 children.
The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.