Why Children Are More Likely to Develop Food Allergies

A study out of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology and published in the journal Science, researchers may now be able to explain how food tolerance emerges over time in normal individuals. Combining molecular approaches with a long-forgotten model of “antigen-free” mice, the study is the first to demonstrate that consumption of a normal diet stimulates cells in the gut that suppress rejection of food by the immune system. This explains why children are more susceptible to food allergies, due to not being in contact with novel foods.

“The immune system evolved to protect us from things that are not ourselves, like viruses or pathogens, yet we consume nutrients, which are themselves foreign,” said one researcher. “Our work shows food tolerance is acquired and involves specific populations of T-cells that develop following its consumption. Without them, we would mount a strong immune response to macromolecules contained in food.”

The researchers created “naive” or “antigen-free” mice who had basically no contact with antigenic proteins and other macromolecules to understand the immune response more closely. Using molecular marker analysis, they found that antigen-free mice were depleted of T-regulatory cells in the small intestine whereas a large number of these T-regs were present in germ-free counterparts fed a “normal” protein diet. The difference alone suggested that proteins contain in food stimulate T-reg development.

They conclude by saying, “[This] new work could explain why children, who have more limited exposure to different types of novel nutritious macromolecules (that is, food) than adults, are more susceptible to food allergies. It also suggests what happens on a cellular basis as some outgrow it: namely, they may be expanding their repertoire of T-regs that recognize new foods as “safe”.


raziRazi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.

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