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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013 Nov 4;10(11):5781-806. doi: 10.3390/ijerph10115781.

Overview of evidence in prevention and aetiology of food allergy: a review of systematic reviews.

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Centre for MEGA Epidemiology, the University of Melbourne, 207 Bouverie Street, Melbourne, Victoria 2010, Australia.


The worldwide prevalence of food allergy appears to be increasing. Early life environmental factors are implicated in the aetiology of this global epidemic. The largest burden of disease is in early childhood, where research efforts aimed at prevention have been focused. Evidence synthesis from good quality systematic reviews is needed. We performed an overview of systematic reviews concerning the prevention and aetiology of food allergy, retrieving 14 systematic reviews, which covered three broad topics: formula (hydrolysed or soy) for the prevention of food allergy or food sensitization; maternal and infant diet and dietary supplements for the prevention of food allergy or food sensitization and hygiene hypothesis-related interventions. Using the AMSTAR criteria for assessment of methodological quality, we found five reviews to be of high quality, seven of medium quality and two of low quality. Overall we found no compelling evidence that any of the interventions that had been systematically reviewed were related to the risk of food allergy. Updating of existing reviews, and production of new systematic reviews, are needed in areas where evidence is emerging for interventions and environmental associations. Furthermore, additional primary studies, with greater numbers of participants and objective food allergy definitions are urgently required.

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