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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Exclusive Breastfeeding Doesn't Reduce Asthma or Skin Allergy Risk

The word from doctors has always been that breastfeeding - exclusive breastfeeding, with no use of formula - is the best way to reduce the risk of babies developing later allergies.

That may still be true for dairy allergies, but the risk of asthma, hay fever, or eczema was not reduced at all by exclusive breastfeeding for the first three months of live, according to a new study in the journal BMJ.

An article by Peggy Peck on MedpageToday.com has more details.

Children who were exclusively breastfed for at least the first three months of life were no less likely to develop allergies or asthma than children whose nutrition included infant formulas.

Moreover, by age six, children who were nourished solely by breast milk had a two- to threefold higher risk for positive skin prick tests for four of five antigens, Michael S. Kramer, M.D., and colleagues from Montreal Children's Hospital reported in the Sept. 12 issue of BMJ.

...

For allergic symptoms and diagnosis there was "borderline significant reductions in history of eczema both with more prolonged any breastfeeding and with more prolonged exclusive breastfeeding (P=0.08 for both associations)."


However, the strongest associations were for skin prick tests and those went "in the opposite direction," said the researchers, with significant increased risk for positive tests among children who had exclusive breastfeeding for six months or longer.

However, there were some indicators that went the other way.
For allergic symptoms and diagnosis there was "borderline significant reductions in history of eczema both with more prolonged any breastfeeding and with more prolonged exclusive breastfeeding (P=0.08 for both associations)."

Since this study did not look at dairy protein based allergies, presumably exclusive breastfeeding is still the best route to lower future risk. However, this is an interesting finding that will certainly generate more studies.

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1 comment:

Claire said...

"However, the strongest associations were for skin prick tests and those went "in the opposite direction," said the researchers, with significant increased risk for positive tests among children who had exclusive breastfeeding for six months or longer..."

I have often wondered (from a position of more or less complete ignorance, I hasten to add!) if being breastfed by an atopic mother with high IgE levels might increase the risk of allergic sensitisation.