Report examines links between breast-feeding, atopic dermatitis

October 14, 2014

Over the past few decades, efforts to slow the increase in cases of pediatric atopic dermatitis (AD), combined with a focus on the health benefits of breast-feeding, have led to the question of whether breast-feeding can reduce the risk of AD.

Over the past few decades, efforts to slow the increase in cases of pediatric atopic dermatitis (AD), combined with a focus on the health benefits of breast-feeding, have led to the question of whether breast-feeding can reduce the risk of AD.

Researchers Jenny E Murase, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and Collin M. Blattner, of Des Moines University in Iowa, investigated the question and reported the results in a recently published study.

They found evidence that breast-feeding during the first four months of life appears to help reduce incidence and severity of atopic disease, but that the effect appears to be limited to high-risk infants, defined as a those who have a first-degree relative with AD.

Additionally, there appears to be no difference in atopic risk reduction between infants exclusively breast-fed for six months, as recommended by the World Health Organization, and those in whom breast-feeding is supplemented with, for example, formula.

“There is strong evidence to support that breast-feeding during the first four months of life results in an approximately 33 percent reduction in the incidence and severity of atopic disease in high-risk infants,” Dr. Murase tells Dermatology Times. “Mothers can also be reassured that they do not have to exclusively breast-feed to achieve the desired risk reduction, since supplementing with formula will not lessen the benefit to the baby.”

The authors addressed another issue related to breast-feeding: whether antigen avoidance during pregnancy and while breast-feeding can minimize the baby’s risk for developing AD. Citing the results of three recent studies, the authors conclude that dietary antigen avoidance during pregnancy has no effect on the incidence of AD during the first 18 months of life. Indeed, two of the studies they cite suggest that dietary modification during pregnancy should not be recommended as it may hinder fetal growth and increase the risk of prematurity.

“More data are necessary to determine the potential adverse effects of maternal antigen avoidance during pregnancy on gestational weight gain, fetal growth and preterm birth,” the authors wrote.

The findings were published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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