New mothers who want to reduce their child’s risk of developing food allergies should add one item to their grocery list: milk.
A study involving more than 500 Swedish women has linked milk consumption in breastfeeding mothers to fewer instances of food allergies in their children.
There are many factors that drive the risk of food allergies in children, including genetics. Now, the Swedish scientists have found a way for new mothers to positively influence those outcomes.
During the study, new mothers gave detailed reports about their diets three times — near the end of pregnancy, one month after birth and again three months later. When their children were 1 year old, they were tested for various food allergies.
After controlling for other factors, the scientists found an association between the mothers’ milk consumption and food allergies in their children.
They don’t yet know exactly why drinking milk results in fewer food allergies in infants, but they do have several theories. Cow’s milk may contain various microorganisms that activate the child’s immune system and help it to develop tolerance.
The saturated fats in milk may also lead to less consumption of polyunsaturated fats, which the researchers suspect can negatively affect an infant’s immune system development. The influence of diet may also go beyond just milk. New mothers who ate more fruits and berries tended to have more eczema in their children. Follow-up studies to learn more about that are being planned.
For new moms looking to ward off food allergies in their babies, make a mental note before leaving the grocery store: Got milk?