Breastfeeding May Help
Prevent Asthma in Children
NEW YORK (Reuters Health)
- Adding more weight to the nutritionist's axiom that ``breast
is best,'' researchers say mother's milk may help protect newborns
and young children from developing asthma.
``We certainly have known for a long time that breastfeeding
has a lot of health benefits,'' said study co-author Dr. Teresa
To of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. ``So
I think it is not so much surprising but very reassuring to not
only see that there is a protective effect against asthma but
that the longer you breastfeed, the better the effect.''
To and her colleague Dr. Sharon Dell looked into the first-year
year breastfeeding habits of more than 2,000 Canadian mothers.
At the time of the study, the children were between 12 and 24
Six percent of children studied had some form of asthma, the
researchers report in the current issue of Archives of Pediatrics
and Adolescent Medicine, and almost 1 in 4 had a history of wheezing.
While wheezing is an asthma symptom, it is not always associated
with the disease.
The researchers found that infant or childhood asthma was associated
with several risk factors apart from breastfeeding, including
having parents with asthmatic conditions, having parents who smoked
before or after the child's birth, being premature, having low
birth weight and being a male child.
Breastfeeding duration as an isolated factor appeared to play
a significant role in blocking the development of asthma. Babies
who had been breast fed for at least 9 months appeared to gain
protection against the disease.
However, the researchers pointed out that more than 40% of the
babies had been breast fed for less than 2 months--or not at all.
Asthma remains an incurable chronic illness, and death from the
disease is highest among children aged 1 to 4, an age group accounting
for about half of all asthma-related emergency room visits.
``Breastfeeding duration depends on the family and depends on
the child, but from a public health standpoint we have shown that
if you breastfeed your baby for more than 9 months the effect
of reducing the risk of asthma is very, very good,'' To told Reuters
Health. But she said that because breastfeeding for that length
of time is ``not always feasible'' for various reasons, ``a reasonable
recommendation would be to breastfeed your baby for at least 4
to 6 months. That may be a more achievable goal.''
SOURCE: Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine 2001;155:1261-1265.
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