Some children with milk allergies may be able to outgrow them faster by consuming measured amounts of foods containing baked milk.
Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York studied 88 children with milk allergies, giving them baked milk goods in a supervised environment to see the effect on their ability to digest milk. While some children in the study could not tolerate even baked milk, others were able to ? and it seemed eating it allowed them to consume, over time, regular milk as well.
"Not all children with milk allergy are the same; there clearly is a spectrum of severity," said study co-author Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, an associate professor of pediatrics at the school's Jaffe Food Allergy Institute.
"If we can add this baked milk to the diet, it seems to be doing something for the children," Nowak-Wegrzyn told MyHealthNewsDaily. "If you can tolerate little amounts of milk, it seems to be beneficial for the child who is milk-allergic, compared to strict milk avoidance."
Allergy Rx: muffins and waffles
The 88 children were given a muffin and a waffle made with baked milk, and 65 of them were able to tolerate it. These 65 children were then given baked milk products (foods such as macaroni and cheese, and pizza) and over the six-year study, 39 of them became able to eat unheated-milk products as well.
Furthermore, among the 23 children who couldn't eat the baked-milk products initially, five eventually could, and two of them eventually could eat unheated milk after a regimen of baked milk.
In total, 59 percent of the 65 children who ate a supervised regimen of baked-milk products could, in the end, consume unheated milk. Among 60 other children with milk allergies who went to the clinic during the same period, only 13 outgrew their allergy and became able to eat unheated milk.
Nowak-Wegrzyn said that due to the reluctance of parents to put their children on a placebo allergen regimen, a true placebo group was not possible.
She said the differences in allergy severity are likely due to the part of the milk protein a child is allergic to. Certain proteins in milk are less heat-resistant, and so children allergic to those proteins are better able to digest baked milk.
Why some kids react and others don't
Nowak-Wegrzyn said the study helps to explain why some children with milk allergies who are more careless about what they eat don't have problems, while other children who are much more careful still have a reaction after consuming trace amounts of milk.
However, she said, parents should not try simply feeding their children foods with baked milk in them at home; they should first consult a doctor who can tell them whether their child is a good candidate for these food challenges.
Further, she cautioned that while some allergens, such as eggs, seem to have proteins similarly affected by heat, others, such as wheat, seem to cause the same reaction when baked.
"It seems for milk and eggs, baking it makes a big difference, but this cannot be extrapolated for other foods," Nowak-Wegrzyn said.
Still, the results may be encouraging for parents concerned about the difficulties their children face with milk allergies.
"While many children do indeed need to avoid all forms of milk, and can even have life-threatening reactions to tiny amounts of baked milk, this study demonstrates that a large number of children with milk allergy can actually tolerate milk as long as it has been baked," said Dr. Robert Wood, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
"This is very important for two reasons," he said. "First, it allows them to eat a large number of foods that contain baked milk, which significantly enhances quality of life. Second, as demonstrated in this study, exposure to baked milk may help to build tolerance to uncooked milk, potentially hastening resolution of the allergy."
The study appeared in the May 23 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Pass it on: Some kids with milk allergies may overcome them by eating small amounts of food with baked milk under close supervision of a doctor.