Children who are solely breastfed for the first six months are at a higher risk of developing nut allergy, researchers from Australian National University have found, according to their study published in the International Journal of Pediatrics.
Peanut allergy accounts for two-thirds of all fatal food-induced allergic reactions, the study says. It is important to understand how feeding practices might be playing a part in these allergic reactions, the researchers said.
They conducted a survey on 15,142 parents from 110 Australian Capital Territory (ACT) primary schools between 2006 and 2009. During the study, parents were asked whether their child had nut allergies; they were also asked about their children's feeding habits.
The study found that children who are breastfed for six months are at higher risk of developing nut allergies.
"Some 3.9 per cent of children starting school in the ACT have a parent-reported nut allergy, which is almost twice the rate of British children of the same age," said Marjan Kljakovic, researcher at the ANU Medical School, in a statement.
"Our results contribute to the argument that breast-feeding alone does not appear to be protective against nut allergy in children - it may, in fact, be causative of allergy," he said.
Several health organisations such as the WHO and the NHS have advised parents that breast- feeding is necessary for child growth and development. They claim that children should be breastfed for at least six months.
The current study has found that breastfed children possess 1.5 times higher risk of developing nut allergies than children who were exposed to other foods and fluids during the first six months.
"Over time, health authorities' recommendations for infant feeding habits have changed, recommending complementary foods such as solids and formula be introduced later in life," said Kljakovic.
"Despite breast-feeding being recommended as the sole source of nutrition in the first six months of life, an increasing number of studies have implicated breast-feeding as a cause of the increasing trend in nut allergy," he said.