Breast milk could reduce future food allergies in childhood, say researchers. A unique composition of complex sugar in breast milk could play a role in preventing infant food allergies in the future.
The study conducted by the UC San Diego researchers focused on the human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) – structurally complicated sugar molecules and unique to human breast milk. HMOs are not found in infant formula and they are a third most abundant solid component to breast milk, after lactose and fat.
Infants don’t digest HMOs, but these sugar molecules guide the development of infant gut microbiota – strongly affects allergic disease.
“Our research has identified a beneficial HMO profile that was associated with a lower rate of food sensitization in children at one year,” said, Lars Bode, associate professor of pediatrics at UCSD’s School of Medicine.
In this study, the researchers analyzed data and milk samples from around from 421 infants and their mothers. The overall data was taken three-to-four months after birth. Then later, at one year of age, children were given skin prick tests in which, breastfed infants did not show sensitisation to common food allergens.
“A positive test is not necessarily proof of an allergy, but does indicate a heightened sensitivity,” Meghan Azad, Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada said.
“Sensitisations during infancy don’t always persist into later childhood, but they are important clinical indicators and strong predictors of future allergic disease.”
However, the researchers don’t specify that an individual HMO linked to food sensitization its composition plays a significant role.