Cow's milk protects against infant allergies

TAU study may change WHO advice to new mothers.

August 2, 2010 19:30
1 minute read.
Baby bottle

Baby bottle. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Although new mothers are generally advised to avoid feeding their infants cow's milk in the early months, and that breast feeding is the best way to nourish the infant until they are ready to start eating solids, new Tel Aviv University research has indicated that cow's milk protein in the early stages of infancy can help prevent allergies and intolerances later in life.

Researchers studied the feeding history of over 13,000 young children in the largest and longest study of its kind. They discovered that infants who were fed formula containing cow's milk protein in the first fifteen days of their life were nineteen times more protected against the development of Cow's Milk Protein Allergy (CMA) than those were were not exposed to cow's milk protein until a later date. 

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The researchers concluded that introducing the cow's milk protein in the early days effectively acted as a 'vaccine' against CMA, which can cause a number of medical problems including, in the most severe cases, death.

Prof. Yitzhak Katz of TAU's Department of Pediatrics, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, said: "Women who regularly (daily) introduced their babies to cow milk protein early, before fifteen days of life, almost completely eliminated the incidence of allergy to cow milk protein in their babies,"

It is not yet known how much cow's milk protein is needed to produce the preventative effect; more conclusive studies are needed before concrete advice can be issued.

The TAU study could provide valuable information for the World Health Organization, which currently recommends that women breast feed for the first three-to-five months of the infant's life, and then switch to bottle feeding.

The results of the study indicate that infants are actually most vulnerable to the development of allergies at this stage, and that if a child is not exposed to the cow's milk protein in the first fifteen days, it is better to wait until the child is one year old to do introduce it into their diet.

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