Diet and the Maturation of the Immune System
During foetal growth and development, there are periods of rapid cell division in various tissues of the body. During these periods, it is thought that the nutritional status of the foetus may alter expression of the foetal genome, the consequences of which may be lifelong. The neonatal immune system is functionally immature and undergoes a period of extensive differentiation and maturation once exposed to foreign proteins and other dietary components. As early as 1810, Menkell linked malnutrition with lymphoid-tissue atrophy (especially of the thymus), but information on the influence of diet on the developing immune system remains relatively sparse. This review will focus on three specific dietary influences on the maturation of the immune system during foetal development and early infancy: protein-energy malnutrition, maternal milk and cow's milk allergy.
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