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Cow's Milk Intake While Breastfeeding May Cut Child Food Allergies

Findings based on food allergies diagnosed in offspring by age 12 months

milk in a jug and a glass

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 6, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Children whose mothers drink more cow's milk during breastfeeding are at a lower risk for developing food allergies, according to a study recently published in Nutrients.

Mia Stråvik, from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, and colleagues compared the dietary intake of 508 pregnant and lactating women, validated the data with biomarkers of fatty acid proportions from breast milk and erythrocytes, and related these data to physician-diagnosed allergy in the offspring at 12 months of age.

The researchers found that an increased maternal intake of cow's milk during lactation was associated with a lower prevalence of physician-diagnosed food allergy by 12 months of age. This association was confirmed with biomarkers (fatty acids: pentadecanoic acid and heptadecanoic acid) in the maternal blood and breast milk. There was a higher prevalence of atopic eczema seen at 12 months of age among mothers with a higher intake of fruit and berries during lactation.

"One hypothesis is that cow's milk contains something that activates the child's immune system and helps it to develop tolerance. This as-yet unknown cause could be found in the fat of the milk or in its protein content," a coauthor said in a statement. "But it could also be the case that the milk itself is neutral in relation to the immune system. Then it might be more simply a matter of a higher intake of milk fats leading to a relatively lower intake of polyunsaturated fats. This would help, because we believe high levels of polyunsaturated fat in a mother's diet can counteract the maturation of a child's immune system at an early age."

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