Is Breastfeeding to Blame for Nut Allergies in Children?

Breastfeeding

Could too much of this cause a nut allergy?

A new piece in the International Journal of Pediatrics is bound to get some knickers in a twist. Or some nursing bras, anyway.

Australian researchers claim to have found a possible cause for nut allergies, and they’re pointing their fingers squarely at babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, according to The Huffington Post. The World Health Organization recommended babies are exclusively breastfed during that time period.

Investigators at the Australian National University claim that “children who are exclusively breastfed for their first six months have a greater risk for developing a nut allergy than those given other foods or fluids, either exclusively or in combination with breast milk.”

In other words, not only does breastfeeding not protect children from developing nut allergies, but it might actually cause it.

The findings weren’t based on a small sample; more than 15,000 questionnaires were analyzed after parents of kindergartners filled out whether their kids had peanut or other nut allergies and what they were fed in the first six months of life.

Children who were not breastfed were one-and-a-half times less likely to have developed nut allergies, and the findings were identical to another study done by the researchers.

Still, others say the connection is still hazy.

“I am not aware of studies saying that breastfeeding per se causes a nut allergy,” Dr. Scott Sicherer, a professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, is quoted as saying in The Huffington Post.

“In my opinion, none of the studies that the authors quote as implicating breastfeeding as ‘a cause of the increased trend in nut allergy’ actually do so,” he continued, noting there are many possible variables, including genetic predispositions.

Sicherer also argues genetic predispositions can contribute to nut allergies, and that “reverse causation” is not “necessarily” addressed in the study.

Other food allergy experts dismissed the study as being “ridiculous and inappropriate.”

Photo credit: iStock

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