Unique composition of mother’s milk reduces food sensitivity among infants

Unique composition of mother’s milk reduces food sensitivity among infants

Washington, June 14 (news.medical.net):  The unique composition of a mother’s breast milk may help to reduce food sensitivity in her infant, report researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine with colleagues in Canada.

The findings, publishing in the June 15 issue of Allergy, further highlight the health role of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), which are not found in infant formula.

HMOs are structurally complicated sugar molecules unique to human breast milk. They are the third most abundant solid component in human milk after lactose (a different type of sugar) and fat. They are not actually digestible by infants, but act as a prebiotic, helping to guide development of the infant gut microbiota, which previous research suggests is a key influencer of allergic disease. Past research has shown that breastfed infants have a lower risk for a variety of medical conditions, such as wheezing, infections, asthma and obesity.

In the newly published study, a team led by Lars Bode, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and Meghan Azad, PhD, assistant professor in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Manitoba, analyzed milk samples and data from 421 infants and mothers participating in the CHILD Study, a longitudinal study tracking nearly 3,500 Canadian mothers and children from pregnancy to school age. The CHILD Study was launched in 2008 by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the AllerGen Network of Centres of Excellence, a consortium of researchers, industry partners, policymakers, health care providers and patient advocates supporting improved understanding and treatment of allergic diseases.

Breast milk samples taken three-to-four months after birth were analyzed at the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence at UC San Diego, directed by Bode. At one year of age, infants were given skin prick tests to check for allergic sensitization to common allergens, including certain foods.

A positive test is not necessarily proof of an allergy, but does indicate a heightened sensitivity,” said Azad, a Canada Research Chair in Developmental Origins of Chronic Disease. “Sensitizations during infancy don’t always persist into later childhood, but they are important clinical indicators and strong predictors of future allergic disease.”

The multidisciplinary team of scientists found that 59 of 421 infants (14 percent) displayed sensitization to one or more food allergens at age 1. No individual HMO was associated with food sensitization, but the overall HMO composition appeared to play a role. Composition of HMOs in breast milk is variable and determined by factors like lactation stage, gestational age, maternal health, ethnicity, geographic location and breastfeeding exclusivity.

“Our research has identified a ‘beneficial’ HMO profile that was associated with a lower rate of food sensitization in children at one year,” said Bode. “To our knowledge, this is the largest study to examine the association of HMOs and allergy development in infants, and the first to evaluate overall HMO profiles.”

Study authors say the findings demonstrate the link between HMO composition and prevention of food sensitization and underscore the need for further research to explore the underlying biological mechanisms involved, establish long-term consequences of HMO composition on confirmed allergic disease in later childhood and begin to assess how HMO modification might be used therapeutically.

99% of Sri Lankan Infants Are Breastfed

New analysis shows that 99 per cent of children in Sri Lanka are breastfed at some point in their young lives

Babies in South Asia including Sri Lanka are more likely to be breastfed than any other region in the world and are breastfed for longer, UNICEF said in a new analysis released today.

At least 98 per cent of children in the region are breastfed at some point in their young lives including Afghanistan (98%), Bhutan (99%) Nepal (99%), Sri Lanka (99%), and elsewhere in South Asia the proportion is also high at 94-97%.

Almost all mothers in Sri Lanka, deemed a middle-income country, give birth at the hospitals, which promote/implement 10 steps of the baby-friendly initiative**. This is on par with the high-income country of New Zealand.

Breast milk saves lives and protects babies against deadly diseases. UNICEF recommends that children should be breastfed for two years and beyond because it provides an important source of nutrients for healthy growth and can prevent half of deaths during a child’s second year of life. Furthermore, it leads to higher performance on intelligence tests among children and adolescents (3 IQ points on average).

“Breastfeeding is the best gift a mother can give her child, as well as herself,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF’s Regional Director for South Asia. “As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we must give mothers the support they need to start and continue breastfeeding.”

Breastfeeding for longer periods is important for mothers’ health; for each year a mother breastfeeds, her risk of developing breast cancer falls by 6 per cent.

“Whilst Sri Lanka should be proud that almost every child is breastfed at some point in their lives, we need encourage mothers to breastfeed for as long as possible, ideally for two years. This brings immense benefits in the form of nutrition, health and wellbeing for both mother and baby” said Tim Sutton, Representative, UNICEF Sri Lanka.

There has been little progress in improving rates of continued breastfeeding at two years of age in South Asia between 2000 (68%) and 2016 (71%). Also, in some countries, breastfeeding rates fall by over 20 per cent between the child’s first and second birthday.

The recent analysis also showed that babies belonging to wealthier families are more likely to miss out on continued breastfeeding. In South Asia, 81 per cent of babies aged 20-23 months from poorer families are breastfed compared to only 57 per cent in richer families.

his trend is seen across the world. 7.6 million babies are not breastfed, and babies in the world’s richest countries are most likely to miss out. Figures show that an estimated 22 per cent of babies in high-income countries are never breastfed. In low-and-middle-income countries, the rate is 4 per cent.

Factors leading to higher breastfeeding rates vary. Countries like India and Vietnam have put in place strong policies to protect and promote breastfeeding. Others like Turkmenistan have very high rates of mothers giving birth in baby-friendly hospitals. Almost all mothers in New Zealand and Sri Lanka give birth at a baby-friendly facility. Additionally, cultural and political contexts, including support from fathers, families, employers and communities, play a decisive role.