Breastfeeding protects against asthma

Children who are never breastfed are more likely to develop symptoms of the disease, a study shows.

Babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months or more are less likely to develop symptoms of asthma in early childhood, new research suggests.

Although previous studies have found a link between breastfeeding and a reduced risk for childhood asthma, this study found that the likelihood of developing asthma is also affected by how long a child is breastfed.

For instance, children who are breastfed for a shorter length of time, or not exclusively, are more likely to experience asthma-related symptoms by the time they are four.

Study carried out proves breastfed babies are healthier
Dutch researchers compiled information on how more than 5000 children were fed during their first year of life. Specifically, they wanted to know if the children were breastfed, and if so, for how long. The researchers also recorded if and when any other milk or solids were introduced.

The researchers examined the children each year until they turned four to check for any asthma-related symptoms.

The study, published online in the European Respiratory Journal, found that children who had never been breastfed had an increased risk of wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough and persistent phlegm during the first four years of life, compared to children who were breastfed for more than six months.

In fact, children who were never breastfed were up to 1.5 times more likely to develop wheezing and persistent phlegm.

Children who are fed solids are also likely to suffer from asthma
Meanwhile, the children who were fed other milk or solids in addition to breast milk during the first four months of life were also more likely to experience wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough and persistent phlegm during the first four years of life than children who were exclusively breastfed for their first four months.

"The link of duration and exclusiveness of breastfeeding with asthma-related symptoms during the first four years was independent of infectious and allergic diseases associated with an inherited predisposition to them.

These results support current health policy strategies that promote exclusive breastfeeding for six months in industrialized countries," study author Dr Agnes Sonnenschein-van der Voort, a researcher at Generation R, Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands, said in a news release from the European Lung Association.

The study authors noted that more research is needed to explore the protective effect of breastfeeding on the various types of asthma in later life.

(HealthDay, July 2011)

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