Complementary Feeding and Food Allergy, Atopic Dermatitis/Eczema, Asthma, and Allergic Rhinitis: A Systematic Review

Complementary Feeding and Food Allergy, Atopic Dermatitis/Eczema, Asthma, and Allergic Rhinitis: A Systematic Review

Published: Mar 28, 2019
Publisher: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 109, issue S7

Julie E. Obbagy

Laural K. English

Yat Ping Wong

Nancy F. Butte

Kathryn G. Dewey

David M. Fleischer

Mary Kay Fox

Frank R. Greer

Nancy F. Krebs

Kelley S. Scanlon

Eve E. Stoody


Nutrition during infancy and toddlerhood may influence health and disease prevention across the life span. Complementary feeding (CF) starts when human milk or infant formula is complemented by other foods and beverages, beginning during infancy and continuing to age 24 months.


The aim of this study was to describe systematic reviews conducted for the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services Pregnancy and Birth to 24 Months Project to answer the following question: What is the relationship between the timing of the introduction of complementary foods and beverages (CFBs), or types and amounts of CFBs consumed, and the development of food allergy, atopic dermatitis/eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis?


The literature was searched using 4 databases (CINAHL, Cochrane, Embase, PubMed) to identify articles published from January 1980 to February 2017 that met predetermined inclusion criteria. For each study, data were extracted and risk of bias was assessed. The evidence was qualitatively synthesized to develop a conclusion statement, and the strength of the evidence was graded.


Thirty-one included articles addressed the timing of CFB introduction, and 47 articles addressed the types and amounts of CFBs consumed.


Moderate evidence suggests that there is no relationship between the age at which CF first begins and the risk of developing food allergy, atopic dermatitis/eczema, or childhood asthma. Limited to strong evidence, depending on the specific food, suggests that introducing allergenic foods in the first year of life (after 4 months) does not increase the risk of food allergy and atopic dermatitis/eczema but may prevent peanut and egg allergy. There is not enough evidence to determine a relationship between diet diversity or dietary patterns and atopic disease. Research is needed to address gaps and limitations in the evidence on CF and atopic disease, including research that uses valid and reliable diagnostic measures and accounts for key confounders and potential reverse causality.

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