American Society for Nutrition Symposium:
Breastfeeding and Atopic Disease
There has been an increased interest in breastfeeding in developed and developing countries during the last decade as a trend toward a healthier lifestyle. Physicians, investigators, and the public are seeking “evidence-based” verification that breastfeeding can prevent the expression of disease. A major health problem in developed countries worldwide is a striking increase in atopic disease during infancy and early childhood.
One popular explanation, called “the hygiene hypothesis”, has been used to explain this change in disease expression where inadequate colonization of the newborn gut occurs. Colonization acts as a stimulus to the appropriate development of intestinal immune defenses in the newborn to prevent allergic reactions to the introduction of foreign food antigens. Breastfeeding provides both active and passive protection to the vulnerable newborn against infections and inflammatory diseases and contains oligosaccharides, which stimulate an increase in bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (colonizing bacteria). What role does breastfeeding play in the prevention of allergic reactions (another immune-mediated process)?
This symposium reviews the role of breastfeeding in the prevention of allergy in normal and allergy-prone neonates. Epidemiologic and clinical studies to support or refute its role are reviewed and presented and evidence to support the potential or actual mechanisms for prevention are considered. As a result, possible recommendations for considering breastfeeding in the prevention of food allergy will be made or new studies suggested to definitively promote its uses.
Introduction and Overview
W. Allan Walker, MD
Does Breastfeeding Protect Against Allergies:
Renate L. Bergmann, MD
The Role of Prolonged and Exclusive Breastfeeding in the Development
Michael S. Kramer, MD
Meta-Analysis of Clinical/Epidemiological Studies in Breast Milk and Allergy
Wendy Oddy, PhD, MPH
Mechanisms of Breast Milk Protection Against Allergy
W. Allan Walker, MD
Presented by Harvard Medical School Division of Nutrition
Made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from