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Asthma Incidences In Children Reduced With Breastfeeding

July 22, 2011

A study of more than 5,000 children, published in the European Respiratory Journal, found those who are not breastfed are up to 50 percent more likely to exhibit asthmatic symptoms than those who are.

Young children who were never breastfed were 50 percent more likely to have persistent phlegm and 40 percent more likely to wheeze regularly.

The researchers, from the Generation R Study, Erasmus Medical Center in The Netherlands, used gathered data from over 5,000 children. They ascertained in the first 12 months after birth whether the children had ever been breastfed, when breastfeeding was stopped, and whether any other milk or solids were introduced.

Further questionnaires were completed when the children were aged 1, 2, 3 and 4 years to check whether they had any asthma-related symptoms. Those results showed that children who had never been breastfed had an increased risk of wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough and persistent phlegm during their first 4 years, compared to children who were breastfed for more than 6 months.

The strongest links were seen with wheezing and persistent phlegm, as children were 1.4 and 1.5 times more likely to develop these symptoms if they had never been breastfed.

Breastfeeding was found to cut the chance of asthma by reducing the number of serious colds and flu virus infections. Previous studies have shown that breastfeeding cuts the risk of infections in the first six months of life.

Others have found it lessens the chance of childhood obesity and – more controversially – can lead to more intelligent and better behaved offspring.

Researcher Dr. Agnes Sonnenschein-van der Voort, explained in a press release, “The link of duration and exclusiveness of breastfeeding with asthma-related symptoms during the first 4 years was independent of infectious and atopic diseases.”

“These results support current health policy strategies that promote exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months in industrialized countries. Further studies are needed to explore the protective effect of breastfeeding on the various types of asthma in later life.”

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