Food allergy is a type of allergy in which our body treats a particular food item or any of its ingredients or proteins as harmful (or allergen). When our body comes in contact with these allergens, our immune system gets activated. This prepares the body to fight against them.
Nanotechnologies have revolutionized food technology and have made changes in food production, manufacturing and processing to make foods safer and healthier.
Exposure to various factors during the perinatal period (from the 22nd week of pregnancy to 1-4 weeks post-delivery) may interrupt the development of the intestinal stability of the neonate. This may also increase the chances of immune-related problems.
According to a recent study, the inorganic nanoparticles used in food additives can cross the placental barrier and reach the developing baby. These nanoparticles can also pass from breast milk. These nanoparticles have immunotoxic and biocidal properties, which may interfere with the intestinal barrier and gut-associated immune system development of the developing baby and neonates.
The nanoparticles also damage intestinal regulation and compromise the oral tolerance of the developing babies and neonates, predisposing them to food allergies.
Generally, children will develop oral tolerance, which helps them eat dietary proteins without any harm. But when their intestinal barrier or the immune system is compromised, their body may become sensitized and may treat these proteins as harmful, leading to allergy.
To understand how nanoparticles cause food allergies, the research team focused on the commonly used additives, which contain nanoparticles, such as Nano-sized silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide and silver.
According to the experts, these nanoparticles are not absorbed in the gut but are accumulated there. They affect the gut bacteria and cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome plays an important role in the development of a well-educated immune system. Apart from this, the nanoparticles also affect the intestinal barrier, which is again essential to maintain a healthy reaction to dietary proteins, thereby preventing food allergies.