What if breast feeding protects from asthma?

It has recently been discovered that breast feeding protects against asthma. A number of French researchers at INSERM (National Health Institute for Medical Research), the "Infectious illness, autoimmune and allergic" Unit, found that 60 to 80% of baby mice fed by mothers subjected to the allergens of asthma were resistant to the disease, once adults. The results of this study were published on January 25th, 2008 in the review Nature Medicine.

Allergens in milk

A breastfeeding mother who breathes in potential asthma allergens could pass these on to her newborn in her breast milk. It is therefore thought that the exposure of allergens that the newborn gets from breast milk, will help with acquiring immunity and the ability to tolerate the allergens.

Experiment on mice

The scientists exposed the breast feeding mice to allergens diffused in the air by means of aerosols. Only the mothers were exposed to the allergens not the baby mice. Following exposure to the allergens the baby mice were breastfed normally.

Results: resistant baby mice

The allergens inhaled by the breast feeding mice were found approximately 3 to 4 hours after exposure. Once grown into adults, the baby mice that had been breastfed by mothers exposed to allergens were resistant to asthma.

Reminder about asthma

Asthma is a chronic respiratory illness, which has been on the increase over the past few years and which affects mainly children. It is mostly due to externally factors - allergens and infections. When sensitive individuals come into contact with such allergens respiratory problems present themselves.

Environmental changes in question:
  • Increase in pollution
  • Exposure to smoke or infectious agents
  • Changes in our nutritional habits

To be noted: the environment is crucial in the development of the disease in the child.

This Study has shown

This study shows that breast feeding is beneficial in helping prevent asthma in children, especially where allergens are a prominent cause of symptoms.


Access the original document: Nature Medicine

For further information

Asthma UK
Asthma allergy information
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