Food Allergy Prevention and Treatment by Targeted Nutrition

Ann Nutr Metab. 2018:72 Suppl 3:33-45. doi: 10.1159/000487380. Epub 2018 Apr 9.


In view of the dramatic rise in the prevalence of food allergy globally, effective prevention strategies have become a public health priority. Several models have emerged around the etiology of food allergy, including the hygiene hypothesis, dual allergen exposure hypothesis, and vitamin D hypothesis. These form the basis for current and potential prevention strategies. Breastfeeding remains a key pillar of primary allergy prevention. Other nutritional interventions, including the use of whey-based, partially hydrolyzed formula in non-breastfed infants, also play an important role. In recent years, there has been a shift away from prolonged food allergen avoidance to the proactive allergen introduction from 4 months of age. This approach is supported by 2 pivotal randomized clinical trials showing that the early introduction of peanut and other food allergens significantly reduces the risk of food allergy. However, the implementation of this strategy at the population level still raises significant logistic problems, including patient selection and development of suitable food formats for young infants. Other prevention strategies, including vitamin D supplementation, are currently under evaluation. Maternal elimination diets during pregnancy and lactation are not recommended for allergy prevention. The treatment of food allergies has also seen major transformations. While strict allergen avoidance is still the key treatment principle, there is a greater focus on desensitization and tolerance induction by oral and epicutaneous immunotherapy. In addition, specialized hypoallergenic infant formulas for the treatment of infants with cow's milk allergy have undergone reformulation, including the addition of lactose and probiotics in order to modulate the gut microbiome and early immune responses. Further research is needed to inform the most effective food allergy prevention strategies at the population level. In addition, the wider application of food allergen immunotherapy may provide better health outcomes and improved quality of life for families affected by food allergies.

Keywords: Allergy; Atopy; Breastfeeding; Infant formula; Microbiome; Prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / administration & dosage
  • Animals
  • Arachis / immunology
  • Breast Feeding
  • Cattle
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hygiene Hypothesis
  • Immunotherapy
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Milk, Human
  • Nutrition Therapy / methods*
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage


  • Allergens
  • Vitamin D