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Breastfeeding Does Not Protect Against Allergies

September 2007 - The results of a large randomized trial recently published on bmj.com indicate that prolonged or exclusive breastfeeding fails to protect against development of asthma and allergies in later life, thus clarifying conflicting earlier research on a longstanding topic of academic interest.

Researchers recruited 17 046 breastfeeding women attending Belarussian health services during the late 1990s. The experimental group were supported and actively encouraged to breastfeed. The control group were subject to normal practices and policies. The first group saw a large increase in the number of women breastfeeding exclusively at three months and they also breastfed for longer.

Between December 2002 and April 2005 13 889 of their children reaching 6.5 years were tested for symptoms of asthma or common allergies using questionnaires and skin prick tests. Researchers found that increased breastfeeding did not reduce the risk of asthma, hay fever or eczema or the prevalence of positive skin prick tests. The study concluded that public health measures to promote breastfeeding are unlikely to have a major impact on reducing the level of these hereditary conditions.

The researchers comment:

"Our results underline the importance of seeking other explanations for the recent epidemic of allergy and asthma."

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