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Study finds food additives may lead to increased risk of life-threatening allergies in children
In the new review research, published recently in the journal Frontiers in Allergy, scientists from Anens/French Agency for Food, found inorganic nanoparticles used as food additives can cross the placental barrier and put foetuses at higher risk of potentially dangerous allergies in infants.
Food allergies are usually triggered by some proteins found in a range of food items like peanuts, nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish, soy and wheat.
Kids usually develop tolerance over several years that allows them to eat without their bodies treating the protein as a threat. But if their immune system or the intestinal barrier is compromised, they may instead become sensitised and develop an allergic reaction.
Environmental factors play a significant role in the development of allergies and early-life environmental factors are likely key.
Studies found dietary practices and the environment affect gut health in young children and depriving the body’s beneficial gut bacteria of a variety of proteins can potentially affect the development of tolerance to some food.
Additives are commonly added as ingredients for various functions like guaranteeing food safety, improving palatability and appearance, providing texture or ensuring product stability.
Researchers said nanoparticles (NP) used in food additives are not absorbed in the gut but accumulate there.
Among the about 350 food additives authorised in the EU, about 10 per cent are inorganic substances composed of nanoparticles.
These ultrasmall particles can affect the bacteria present in the gut by changing the number of species present and their proportions.
Researchers explained that the particles also affect the intestinal barrier, another essential component of a healthy reaction to dietary proteins.
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Statement from Karine Adel-Patient
Karine Adel-Patient, the corresponding author of the study said “Due to the immunotoxic and biocidal properties of nanoparticles, exposure may disrupt the host-intestinal microbiota’s beneficial exchanges and may interfere with intestinal barrier and gut-associated immune system development in foetus and neonate. This may be linked to the epidemic of immune-related disorders in children, such as food allergies"
“Our review highlights the urgent need for researchers to assess the risk related to exposure to foodborne inorganic nanoparticles during a critical window of susceptibility and its impact on children’s health,”
“The consequences of early exposure to NP during the ‘first 1,000 days’ of life require further studies to decipher whether perinatal NP exposure could predispose to the development of food allergy among other immune-related disorders”