The association of prolonged breastfeeding and allergic disease in poor urban children

C. C. Obihara, B. J. Marais, R. P. Gie1, P. Potter, E. D. Bateman, C. J. Lombard, N. Beyers and J. L. L. Kimpen

Eur Respir J 2005; 25:970-977

The fact that breastfeeding may protect against allergic disease remains controversial, with hardly any reports from developing countries. This study investigated the association between allergic disease in children and prolonged breastfeeding.

Data were collected from a 15% random sample of households from two poor suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa. Parents completed a validated International Study on Asthma and Allergies in Childhood questionnaire on allergic diseases for children aged 6–14 yrs. Other questions included breastfeeding duration, maternal smoking and parental allergy. Results were adjusted for possible confounders and for possible clustering within the household.

Out of the 861 children included in the study, allergic disease in general, and hay fever in particular, were significantly less frequent in those with prolonged (≥6 months) breastfeeding. There was a significant linear inverse association between breastfeeding duration and allergic disease in children without allergic parents, but not in children with an allergic predisposition.

In conclusion, these results from a developing country suggest a protective effect of prolonged breastfeeding on the development of allergic disease, particularly hay fever, in children born to nonallergic parents. This protective effect was not found in children with an allergic predisposition.

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