Allowing children to be picky eaters could cause them to develop food allergies, according to a new study. Children who are not exposed to a wide variety of foods early in life may be at higher risk of developing food intolerance, according to recent data publicized by the
Mothers are often told to avoid high-risk foods during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and when feeding their toddlers, in order to prevent potentially dangerous allergic reactions. The idea, said Professor Gideon Lack of King's College, where a large food allergy study is being conducted, said the idea of this approach is to “wrap the infant up in a sort of immunological cocoon and not expose them to proteins that could launch allergic reactions.”
However, there is a growing belief that such actions may actually be behind the rising rates of food allergies. Dr. Lack told the journal “ There is a possibility that we were achieving the reverse of our intentions through this avoidance policy.” Now, some doctors tell mothers that the best way to avoid food allergies is early exposure to potential food allergens, such as peanuts, rather than intentionally delaying exposure to such foods.
There is not yet enough evidence to prove the benefit of either restricting children's diet or exposing them to potential allergens. Hugh Sampson, of New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine's food allergy institute, says “The biggest thing is not to let mothers feel guilty about whatever choice they make, because at this point we really don't know the best answer.” Three large university-led studies are now underway to determine the latest guidelines for protecting kids against food allergies.