Prolonged breastfeeding does not protect against eczema

A study led by King’s College London (KCL), published in the British Journal of Dermatology (BJD) has concluded that there is no clear evidence that prolonged, exclusive breastfeeding prevents the development of eczema. Researchers from KCL, and the Universities of Nottingham, UK and Ulm, Germany, looked at data from over 50,000 children from 8 to 12 years from Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The study formed Phase Two of The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), and involved the gathering of information on breastfeeding, weaning and eczema by parental questionnaire. The children underwent skin examinations for eczema, and skin prick testing to environmental allergens including house dust mite.

No evidence to suggest that breastfeeding or delayed weaning offer a protective effect against eczema was found, and evidence was found to suggest that the early introduction of potentially allergenic foods could increase tolerance to these foods rather than causing allergy, although this needs to be confirmed in further studies.

Other benefits of breastfeeding however are most certainly not disputed, and one of the researchers emphasizes that breast milk is the most important and appropriate nutrition in early life. The size of the study does mean that its findings are very significant – and will mean a call for reviewing the UK’s advice on how long to breast feed for, and at what age to wean.

Source: King’s College London

August 2011


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