Breast-feeding helps combat asthma

Breastfeeding is associated with a lower incidence of asthma in young children, UK researchers reported at the European Respiratory Society congress in Berlin, Germany.

Mohammad Shamssain and his team from the University of Sunderland recently completed a two-phase study investigating the prevalence and severity of asthma in children in the north-east of England.

The researchers looked at data from over 7,000 school children aged 6-15 years, and found that children who had been breastfed for 6 months or more had a significantly reduced risk for asthma compared with non-breastfed children. The reduction in risk was particularly pronounced among young boys.

The researchers also found that breastfeeding lowers the incidence of allergic disorders, and that children breastfed from 4-9 months from birth had a significantly lower risk of asthma compared with non-breastfed children. Those breastfed up to 7-9 months also had lower instances of persistent wheezing and coughing.

Shamssain said: ‘Breastfed children showed lower prevalence rates of asthma, rhinitis and eczema, and the effect of breastfeeding was more evident in boys than girls. Asthma and wheeze were resolved significantly earlier in breastfed children than those who were not breastfed.

‘Breastfeeding is a cost-effective approach to a significant prevention of allergic disease in children. Our research demonstrates that exclusive breastfeeding prevents the development of allergic diseases in children.’

Sally Rose, asthma nurse specialist at Asthma UK, said: ‘While some research does suggest that breastfeeding may help reduce the chance of babies developing allergic conditions such as asthma, there are other studies that contradict this.’

‘Because breastfeeding provides many proven benefits for babies, current advice from the Department of Health, which Asthma UK supports, is that where possible, babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.

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