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Medically reviewed by Dr. Samuel Sarmiento, M.D., MPH on August 3, 2023

Maternal egg intake during the early neonatal period did not influence the development of immunoglobulin E-mediated egg allergy or sensitization to eggs in a recent study.

Around 10% of children are believed to suffer from food allergies, which are rising rapidly. It has been found that hen’s eggs are a major trigger for many who have food allergies. Therefore, protecting kids from developing an egg allergy is crucial. Some researchers have hypothesized that consuming eggs through breast milk during the early neonatal period can prevent immunoglobulin E-mediated egg allergy (EA), similar to what happens in infancy.

An article published in JAMA Network Open tested the idea that maternal egg consumption (MEC) or maternal egg elimination (MEE) within the first 5 days after birth would protect newborns against EA.

Study Design and Population

Ten hospitals across Japan participated in this randomized clinical study between 2017 and 2021. Infants were included if at least one of their parents had an allergy. A total of 183 infants (96.3%) in the MEC group and 184 (96.8%) in the MEE group were followed up at 12 months of age.

Levels of Ovalbumin (Egg White Protein) and Ovomucoid (Egg Protein) In Breast Milk

Breast milk ovalbumin (OVA) and ovomucoid (OVM) detection rates were greater in the MEC group on days 3 and 4 compared to the MEE group. At 1 month of age, however, there was no statistically significant difference between the MEC and MEE groups concerning the amounts of OVA and OVM in breast milk.

Prevalence of Egg Allergies, Eczema, Milk Allergies, and Wheat Allergies

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The prevalence of MEC and MEE egg allergies was not significantly different. At 1 and 4 months, eczema, milk, and wheat allergies were similar. At 4 months of age, 30.1% of MEC newborns and 26.6% of MEE babies were sensitive to egg white. At 12 months of age, 62.8% of the MEC group and 58.7% of the MEE group were sensitive to egg white. At 12 months, the total egg sensitization rate was 60.7%.

Egg Consumption or Elimination Caused No Adverse Effects

Neither group reported adverse effects during the treatment period (days 0–5). One patient in the MEE group required hospitalization at 9 months of age, the only major adverse event recorded over the 12-month trial period.

This study shows that egg consumption by mothers during the first few weeks of their child’s life does not affect the likelihood that the child will acquire an egg allergy.

Nagakura, K., Sato, S., Shinahara, W., Kido, H., Fujita, H., Yanai, T., Akiyama, N., Futamura, M., Koga, H., Fujiwara, M., Kaneko, H., Taniguchi, H., Makita, E., Takahashi, K., Yanagida, N., Ebisawa, M., & Urashima, M. (2023). Effect of maternal egg intake during the early neonatal period and risk of infant egg allergy at 12 months among breastfeeding mothers. JAMA Network Open, 6(7), e2322318. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.22318