Crack open an egg to beat allergy

Breakthrough research suggests giving eggs to breastfeeding mothers may

lower chance of egg allergy in babies

Breastfeeding mothers should be encouraged to eat eggs to help prevent their babies from developing an egg allergy. That’s the message coming from new research[1] developed by allergy experts at the University of Western Australia (UWA).

Study leader Professor Valerie Verhasselt, from UWA’s School of Molecular Sciences, commented[2]: “Ten years ago, we demonstrated in an animal model that you could educate the immune system of a baby to accept egg protein as well as protect the baby from egg allergy later on.

“Our new study shows for the first time that this may also happen in humans. We’ve found that cases of egg allergy in children are four times less likely when they have been exposed to breastmilk containing egg protein, compared to those exposed to breastmilk without detectable egg protein.

 “Our study shows that protection could be induced through breastfeeding and before the introduction of any solid food to the child’s diet.” 

Experts in the UK, such as Allergy UK[3], also now recommend that eggs and other potentially allergenic foods are introduced early in the weaning process – from 6 months of age – to help protect babies against food allergies.

Dietitian, Dr Carrie Ruxton, comments: “This research provides extra reassurance for new mums and other family members that eggs can be enjoyed during pregnancy, while mums are breastfeeding and also early in the weaning process – as soon as babies reach 6 months of age”.

Eggs are a highly nutritious food being high in B vitamins, vitamin D and iodine which protect and support normal health. They are also one of the richest sources of choline which is a nutrient that is particularly important for brain development. Eggs are easy to prepare and eat, making them one of the top choices for busy parents.

“Improvement to food safety over the past few decades now mean that runny eggs, with the British Lion mark, are once more a recommended option for pregnant women, children and older people[4].

“Given many mums’ worries about the risk of infant allergies, it’s good to know from this new research that simply enjoying eggs during those months of breastfeeding can be an added bonus.”

Professor Verhasselt, who is also the Larssen-Rosenquist Chair in Human Lactology at UWA, said the studies, published in the journals Allergy and Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed researchers were on the path to preventing egg allergy through breastfeeding and targeting mothers’ diets during this period. 

“Our data still need to be confirmed in large randomised control trials to bring formal proof of this promising new approach of exposing babies to egg protein through breastmilk,” she said, adding that: “Our research is aiming to find ways to prevent allergy and stop this modern world epidemic”.