The prevalence of food allergy in childhood appears to be increasing in both developed and transitional countries. The aim of this paper is to review and summarise key findings in the prevention and management of food allergy, focusing on the role of dietary components and nutritional habits in the development and optimal functioning of the immune system. Essential fatty acids, zinc and vitamin D are likely to enhance the anti-inflammatory and antioxidative barrier and promote immunologic tolerance. Additionally, nutritional components such as pre- and probiotics represent a novel research approach in the attempt to induce a tolerogenic immune environment. For all these reasons, the traditional avoidance diet has been, in recent years, completely reconsidered. New findings on the protective effect of an increased diversity of food introduced in the first year of life on allergic diseases are consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to a variety of food antigens during early life might play a role in the development of immune tolerance. Accordingly, therapeutic (and even preventive) interventions should be planned on an individual basis.
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