Waiting to expose a baby to cereal grains until after the age of 6 months may increase the risk that the infant will become allergic to wheat, a new study suggests. Researchers followed 1,612 children from birth until an average age of about 4½. The prevalence of wheat allergy among the 958 children exposed to cereal grains before 6 months was 0.41 percent. But among the 654 who were not exposed to grains before that age, it was 1.8 percent, more than four times as high. Of the 16 children who developed the allergy, 12 had not received cereal grains until they were older than 6 months.
The authors conclude that the age at which a baby first tastes cereal is significant. "The common sense out there is that delaying the introduction of cereals would be beneficial," said Jill M. Norris, the senior author of the study and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "But actually it may not protect against allergies."
The results, published in the June issue of Pediatrics, held true after controlling for the presence of other allergies and for a family history of allergy. The scientists are unsure of the reason for the findings, but they suggest that immune tolerance develops in a specific time interval, and not later, or that larger portions given to older children may provoke allergy rather than tolerance. "This is something to consider when making decisions about infant diet," Dr. Norris said.
Bonnie - We've already seen this before. This is a ridiculous study - are we going to give wheat to a 4 month old child who cannot digest it? This is an association study. What was the amount of grain give? Also, how do we know that parents did not avoid giving their child wheat or other grains because someone in the family had evidenced problems with it. So, of course, if there was a family history of grain intolerance, there would be an increased amount of those children reacting no matter when they introduced it!
The only accurate research study would be to randomly sample children who had no family history of grain intolerance. Then, give the exact same grains and amounts to them before 6 months and after 6 months to see what hapens.