Is this why childhood allergies are on the rise? Junk food additives cross the placenta during pregnancy and distort their immune system
- French researchers have warned that billions of nanoparticles from food are reaching infants
- These can alter their gut microbiome and damage gut cells, they said.
- This is likely to increase their allergy risk, with allergy levels increasing in children
According to a study, additives in junk food can seep into babies’ wombs and trigger changes related to the development of allergies.
The finding – based on a review of around 170 studies – may partly explain why allergy rates have skyrocketed in the US and Britain over the past two decades.
Researchers have found that tiny particles added to sugars, sweeteners and preservatives used to make candies, cakes and syrups can cross the placenta and reach the fetus. Nanoparticles accumulate in the gut and disrupt babies’ microbiome, they say.
Mountains of research show that high-fat diets during pregnancy can wreck babies’ immune systems and put them at risk for a host of health issues.
The graph above, made by the researchers, shows nanoparticles ingested by a mother (black dots) reaching infants via the placenta and by drinking breast milk. In turn, this suggests it increases the risk of an immune disorder.
A total of 5.6 million American schoolchildren suffer from allergies. The United States has seen its rates double in about a decade, from 2% in 2007 to 8% today. The UK saw a similar increase.
Scientists say the surge is triggered because they are growing up in an increasingly sterile world free of many germs that help build a robust immune system.
WHAT CAUSES ALLERGIES?
An allergy occurs when the body reacts to a certain food or substance as if it were harmful.
They are very common, affecting around a quarter of Britons and a third of Americans.
Children are most likely to suffer from allergies, although some disappear with age.
Most allergies, such as pollen, dust mites, and food, are mild and can be controlled, but serious reactions can occur.
It’s not known why allergies occur, but most people affected have a family history of allergies or have closely related conditions, such as asthma or eczema.
The number of people with allergies is increasing every year.
The reasons for this are not understood, but one of the main theories is that it is the result of living in a cleaner environment, which reduces the number of germs that our immune system has to deal with.
It is believed that this may cause him to overreact when he comes into contact with harmless substances.
In the latest research, scientists have combed through databases for studies on the effect of food additives on bacteria and the body’s immune system.
A total of 168 research articles were retrieved, including studies conducted in the laboratory, in rodents, and in humans.
They focused on three additives found in many processed foods, including titanium dioxidewhich is used in popular candies, salad dressings and chewing gum to impart a smooth texture or to act as a white colorant.
The study also looked at silicon dioxide, which prevents food from clumping or sticking together, and nano-silver, a preservative used in food packaging to extend the shelf life of snacks.
Scientists have found ample evidence that in mice, nanoparticles in these additives can cross the placenta and enter the intestines of children. But they said there were also signs it could happen in humans too.
The intestine does not absorb the tiny particles; instead, they clump together and disrupt surrounding bacteria.
Because the microbiome is so connected to the immune system, researchers believe it may play a role in the development of allergies.
Because allergies in children are more common than in adults, the researchers say this bolsters their theory.
The review article was published today in Frontiers in Allergy.
Dr. Karine Adel-Patient, human health expert at Paris-Saclay University, warns: “The impact of such exposure on the development of food allergies has not been assessed to date.
“Our review highlights the urgent need for researchers to assess the risk of exposure to foodborne inorganic nanoparticles during a critical window of susceptibility and its impact on children’s health.”
She added: “These agents can cross the placental barrier and then reach the developing fetus.
“Excretion in milk is also suggested, continuing to expose the neonate.”
Peanuts and tree nuts are the cause of most allergies in children, while in the general population, shellfish, milk and peanuts were the main cause of allergies.
Over 900 food products contain at least one additive or component defined as a nanoparticle.
The most common subsectors are infant formula (26%), confectionery (16%), breakfast cereals (15%), cereal bars (13%), and frozen pastries and desserts ( 11%).
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