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    Breastfeeding won't prevent eczema

    London — Breastfeeding may not help prevent babies from developing eczema after all, Medical News Today reports.

    To determine whether breastfeeding protects from eczema — and if so, to what extent — researchers from King’s College London, England’s University of Nottingham and the University of Ulm, Germany, gathered data on 51,119 children ages 8 to 12 from 21 nations, focusing on those who had been exclusively breastfed for at least four months. The data included information on breastfeeding, when the baby was weaned, and eczema. Children were examined for eczema and tested by skin prick for allergies.

    Investigators found that the children who had been exclusively breastfed for at least four months had the same risk of eventually developing eczema as those who had been weaned earlier. The findings contradict results of earlier studies, which so convincingly indicated that breastfeeding might protect against eczema that the World Health Organization and the UK Department of Health began recommending six months of exclusive breastfeeding to reduce the risk of children developing the disease. More recent studies, however, found no evidence that breastfeeding reduces that risk.

    Moreover, there is growing evidence that introducing potentially allergenic food proteins, such as peanut, early in life actually helps improve tolerance, according to Medical News Today. The authors note that further intervention studies are required to confirm this.

    Medical News Today quotes King’s College study leader Carsten Flohr, M.D., as saying, “Although there was a small protective effect of breastfeeding per se on severe eczema in affluent countries, we found no evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for four months or longer protects against eczema in either developed or developing nations. We feel that the UK breastfeeding guidelines with regard to eczema should therefore be reviewed. Further studies are now required to explore how and when solids should be introduced alongside breastfeeding to aid protection against eczema and other allergic diseases.”

    The study appeared in the British Journal of Dermatology.

    Bill Gillette
    Bill Gillette is a freelance writer based in Richmond Heights, Ohio.

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