We know breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a baby, and now research has found that breast milk may help prevent food allergies

A new study has found that a mother’s breast milk may help to reduce food sensitisation in her baby.

The study highlights the health role of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), which are not found in infant formula, and underscore their potential for therapeutic interventions.

Unique to human breast milk

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 type of sugar) and fat.

They are not actually digestible by babies, but act as a prebiotic, helping to guide the development of the infant gut microbiota, which previous research suggests is a key influencer of allergic disease.

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Past research has shown that breastfed infants have a lower risk for a variety of medical conditions, such as wheezing, infections, asthma and obesity.

Related: Benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby

The study

Breast milk samples taken three to four months after birth were analysed 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 sensitisation to common allergens, including certain foods.

“A positive test is not necessarily proof of an allergy, but does indicate a heightened sensitivity. “Sensitisations during infancy don’t always persist into later childhood, but they are important clinical indicators and strong predictors of future allergic disease,” says researcher Meghan Azad, PhD, assistant professor in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Manitoba.

“Our research has identified a ‘beneficial’ HMO profile that was associated with a lower rate of food sensitisation in children at one year. 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,” says Lars Bode, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Source: University of California – San Diego via www.sciencedaily.com