Food allergies have met their match. On the heels of the breakthrough LEAP study, two moms, a pediatric allergist and a scientist, got together to create SpoonfulOne, a dietary supplement that can prevent foods from becoming allergens. Before you think this doesn’t apply to your food allergic child, consider that your child will likely grow up to have children with an elevated risk of developing food allergies — making this news extraordinary. We talked with the CEO and co-founder, Dr. Ashley Dombkowksi, about the ground-breaking science and family ties that make SpoonfulOne so revolutionary for the future of food allergy prevention.
Why should a food allergy parent know about SpoonfulOne?
SpoonfulOne has been developed out of great respect and honor for people with allergies because we know how real the epidemic is. I have an 11-year-old nephew with milk and tree nut allergies, and if I could have done anything to prevent them, I would have. SpoonfulOne is so powerful because it is reframing healthcare to be preventative. It is a bigger idea than anything I have ever seen in the healthcare and biotech industry.
If you already have a child with a food allergy, it's important to be aware of this option if you have other young children or are expecting. At the very least, we want food allergy parents to have SpoonfulOne for when their children have kids of their own who will likely have a higher risk of developing a food allergy. I worked with a PhD student who has food allergies. He’s 24 and said, "I know it’s not for me, but I’m so glad this product is developed so it will be available for my children."
How did we get here?
As we're all aware, food allergies have become an epidemic with cases increasing by nearly 400% in the past decade. And it isn’t just peanuts — 77% of people with a food allergy are allergic to other foods.
The breakthrough LEAP (Learning Early About Peanuts) study in 2015 offered proof that introducing potential allergens, in this case peanuts, reduced the risk of developing an allergy by 80%. This changed everything we thought to be true about food allergy development. The results prompted the NIH to change their guidelines in January 2017, instructing parents to now introduce peanuts to infants between the ages of 4-6 months. And most recently, the FDA issued a qualified health claim that products containing peanut may reduce the risk of allergies. As someone who has been in healthcare for 20 years, seeing the FDA make such claims is really exciting. We are moving away from old ways of thinking about food allergies and bringing that information to the public in a way that lets consumers be on the offense for a change.
How did SpoonfulOne start?
SpoonfulOne began with the incredible research from Dr. Kari Nadeau, one of the leading pediatric allergists in the world and the Director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University. I met Kari at the perfect time to start SpoonfulOne together. As a trained scientist, I had spent 20 years reacting — building companies that develop drugs to treat things like cancer, neurodegenerative diseases or rare genetic diseases. Then I had an epiphany while working with consumer DNA sequencing company, 23andme. To have a real impact in healthcare, you have to have access to people on top of great biology while keeping the consumer at the center of control. That is our mission at Before Brands — give the consumer control before food allergies arise.
What is SpoonfulOne?
SpoonfulOne is a daily dietary supplement powder, scientifically designed to help your child’s immune system learn that potential food allergens are really just safe food. Each individual packet contains small, measured amounts of the food proteins that cause 90% of food allergies along with a daily dose of Vitamin D. You mix it into your child's food once a day to get gentle exposure to proteins from peanuts, milk, eggs, almonds, soy, wheat, shrimp, cashews, hazelnuts, oat, cod, pecans, salmon, sesame, walnuts and pistachios.
How does it work?
When it comes to the immune system, balance is key. In modern times, something about the way we are living is disrupting that balance and making our immune systems more susceptible to misfiring, and we don’t know what the full list of disruptors is. The LEAP study was tremendous because it showed that a relatively simple dietary modification could help. So SpoonfulOne was designed to present the immune system early and often with little gentle bits of proteins carefully selected to cover the complete range of critical foods that most commonly become problematic. We also include Vitamin D, which supports a healthy and balanced immune system. At the same time, we formulated SpoonfulOne with a specific taste, texture and volume profile so all this complex protein science can be easily added as a daily part of a child’s mealtime routine.
When should you start SpoonfulOne?
Based on the findings from the LEAP study, babies can start taking SpoonfulOne around 4-6 months for the best results. We do want to make it clear that this product is not for people who have a food allergy, though it was inspired by all the families who struggle with allergies every day.
What if I am concerned my child might have food allergies or they have a food allergic sibling?
We want people to do what they feel comfortable with and what makes sense in the context of their own family. SpoonfulOne is a dietary supplement that can be introduced as you would introduce any other food to a healthy baby. If your child has severe eczema or if you are concerned about a pre-existing food allergy, consult your doctor as you would before feeding any of the potentially allergenic foods.
What if I have another child with food allergies at home?
We package SpoonfulOne in single-serve disposable packets specifically to limit the risk of cross contamination in a home where someone else may have a food allergy. So much thought went into making SpoonfulOne so it could be used safely in food allergy homes. We consulted with many experts and food allergy families when we developed SpoonfulOne because so many said they wished they had a tool to reduce the risk of a food allergy in the other members of their family. That feedback was key to our design and we will continue to listen and iterate so we are always getting better.
Is it just for babies?
Even though we made SpoonfulOne to be gentle enough for infants, people of all ages can use it. My daughters are 10 and 12, and I give SpoonfulOne to them. Research from Dr. Ruchi Gupta at Northwestern University shows that roughly 50% of American adults developed their allergies after the age of 18. I’m hopeful that incorporating a fully diverse spectrum of food proteins early, often, and for the long run in our diets can help reverse this trend.
Couldn't I just feed my baby all these foods at home?
There are DIY solutions, but most families find them extremely time consuming, labor intensive and wasteful. Even with lots of professional support, the EAT Study showed how difficult adherence is for families. Robin Pompa, health journalist, chronicles how challenging it is to regularly include such a wide range potential food allergens in her kids’ daily meals in her book, Allergy-Free Kids. It can be so overwhelming to have to feed so many foods consistently that parents simply stop doing it. It is particularly difficult for infants who cannot yet eat whole foods like salmon or peanuts. SpoonfulOne solves this by putting all the right ingredients in one easy to prepare and consume mix-in powder.
Why should I feel comfortable giving SpoonfulOne to my child?
Everything in SpoonfulOne is already deemed safe by the FDA, but we went the extra mile by making a significant investment in funding an independent study led by Northwestern University to assess the safety and tolerability of the product in a real world, at home setting. More than 700 infants participated in a blinded, placebo-controlled study, and there were no reactions either at a first feeding or any subsequent feedings. The detailed results will soon be presented at a medical meeting. We wanted to do as much as we could to put parents at ease and will continue to do all that we can so parents can trust that SpoonfulOne is the best, most complete and deliberately-developed product possible to reduce the risk of a food allergy.
How often should kids take it, and is it too late to start for children who are older?
We say it's like exercise — earlier is better, but later is better than never. For the best results, we recommend daily use.
How long should children continue to take SpoonfulOne?
Scientists don’t know all the reasons some of us develop food allergies while others do not and they don’t know what behaviors may be enough to guarantee a healthy immune system for life. One observation from the LEAP study is that early, consistent exposure over the first five years helped reduce risk of a peanut allergy by 80%. When it comes to SpoonfulOne, we recommend at least a year of consistent feeding. Once you’ve made daily protein training a consistent part of your routine, as with any healthy habit, there’s really no reason to stop.
A Family Affair
Every member of our team has a family member with a food allergy or a personal connection to this mission. We wish our loved ones had the benefit of studies like LEAP and access to a product like SpoonfulOne, so everything we do is inspired by that. I know it could have easily been my kids with food allergies, and I take the responsibility of bringing SpoonfulOne to a new generation of families exceedingly personally.
How to Order
You can order a three, six or twelve-month subscription on the SpoonfulOne website.