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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hydrolyzed casein formula may slash eczema in infants

Here's an important new study from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (published on-line ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2006.11.017)

"Certain hydrolyzed formulas reduce the incidence of atopic dermatitis but not that of asthma: Three-year results of the German Infant Nutritional Intervention Study," by A. von Berg, S. Koletzko, B. Filipiak-Pittroff, B. Laubereau, A. GrĂ¼bl, H.-E. Wichmann, C.-P. Bauer, D. Reinhardt, D. Berdel and the German Infant Nutritional Intervention Study Group.

The NutraIngredients.com site has some explanation in words approaching normal English.

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis (AD), is one of the first signs of allergy during the early days of life and is said to be due to delayed development of the immune system. According to the American Academy of Dermatologists it affects between 10 to 20 percent of all infants, but almost half of these kids will 'grow out' of eczema between the ages of five and 15.

The researchers, from Marien-Hospital Wesel, Ludwig Maximilians University, Neuherberg's Institute of Epidemiology, and Technical University of Munich, recruited 2252 newborns with a family history of allergy and assigned them to one of four intervention groups: formula containing only cow's milk (control), or formulas with partially hydrolyzed whey, extensively hydrolyzed whey, or extensively hydrolyzed casein.

Cow's milk proteins, which are the most widely used in routine infant formulas, are the most common allergen in infancy, so the study examined formulas in which the proteins were broken down to decrease the chances of allergy.

The German Infant Nutritional Intervention Study (GINI) found that after three years, the partially hydrolyzed whey formula and the extensively hydrolyzed casein formula reduced the period prevalence of eczema by 48 and 47 per cent, respectively, while the cumulative incidence for the extensively hydrolyzed casein formula decreased by 33 per cent, compared to the cow's milk formula group.

"The preventive effect developed in the first year and persisted into the third year, indicating real disease reduction rather than postponement of disease onset," wrote Von Berg.

The researchers also report that children with a genetic history of eczema in their family had a significantly reduced risk of eczema when consuming only the extensively hydrolyzed casein formula.

The researchers emphasize that breastfeeding is still the "gold standard" for preventing allergies, but that hydrolyzed formulas are truly helpful in cases where breastfeeding is not possible.

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