Breast milk 'may help to prevent food allergies in children'

Breastfeeding children could be an effective way of helping them to avoid developing food allergies, according to new research.

A study led by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine has found that the unique composition of a mother's breastmilk may help to reduce food sensitisation in her young child.

Analysing milk samples and data from 421 infants and mothers, the team found that certain human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) present in breast milk were associated with a lower rate of food sensitisation in children at one year.

Although HMOs are not digestible by infants, they act as a prebiotic that helps to guide development of the infant gut microbiota, which previous research suggests is a key influencer of allergic disease.

Dr Meghan Azad, assistant professor in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, said: "A positive test is not necessarily proof of an allergy, but does indicate a heightened sensitivity. Sensitisations during infancy don't always persist into later childhood, but they are important clinical indicators and strong predictors of future allergic disease."

Future research may examine how modifying HMOs from breast milk might be used as a therapeutic strategy for combating allergies.ADNFCR-2094-ID-801847162-ADNFCR