by Mita Majumdar on  November 21, 2012 at 12:33 PM Health In Focus
Higher Maternal Age at Delivery May Cause Food Allergy in the Child
Higher maternal age at the time of delivery may cause food allergy in their offspring and the male infant is more at risk for food allergy diagnosis, according to a US study published in the Nutrition Journal.

Development of childhood allergic diseases is a consequence of low gut flora in the child. The newborn is first colonized by gut microbes at birth, which originate mainly from the mother's gut and vaginal tract. It is seen that children born by C-section are colonized with bifidobacteria and lactobacilli later than vaginally delivered children, and are prone to more frequent respiratory allergies. Breast feeding also promotes growth and activity of important gut flora such as bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria.

Studies have shown that children who develop allergies have higher levels of pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridium difficile and Staphylococcus aureus and lower levels of probiotic bacteria such as bifidobacteria. Bifidobacteria promote tolerance to nonbacterial antigens, primarily by inhibiting the development of proallergic response.

Results of a preliminary research from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, USA, suggested that appropriately-selected and suitably-dosed probiotic supplements can have a positive impact in treating allergic disorders.

Since gut flora, which are immunomodulators (agents that augment or diminish immune responses), are disrupted in infants with allergic conditions Kelly Dowhower Karpa and her colleagues undertook a study to investigate whether perinatal (from 20-28th week of gestation to 1-4 weeks after birth) factors, such as C-section delivery, use of antibiotics and time spent in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), known to disrupt gut flora increase the risk of food allergies.

They reviewed birth records of 192 healthy children and 99 children diagnosed with food allergies, and recorded data pertaining to delivery method, perinatal antibiotic exposure, neonatal nursery environment and maternal variables. They used logistic regression analysis to assess the association between the variables and food allergy.

The results were as follows:

Perinatal antibiotics, NICU admission, or Cesarean section were not associated with increased risk of food allergy diagnosis.

Male infants were much more at risk of food allergy.

Higher maternal age at the time of delivery was significantly associated with food allergy diagnosis of their children.

The authors, however, suggested further research regarding these associations. They concluded - 'It is conceivable that male neonates born to older mothers might benefit the most from early intervention with probiotic therapies, but this remains to be explored'.

Source: Karpa, KD, et al. A retrospective chart review to identify perinatal factors associated with food allergies. Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:87 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-87

Source: Medindia

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