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Low-fat yogurt intake during pregnancy may heighten child allergy risk, study

By Ben Bouckley , 21-Oct-2011

Mothers who consume low-fat yogurt products during pregnancy may give birth to children with a higher risk of developing allergies such as asthma and hay fever, a study has found.

A team led by Ekaterina Maslova, from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, aimed to assess whether conjugated fatty acids (CLA) found in dairy products could offer children protection against development of allergies.

This followed the reporting of immune-modulating and protective effects for CLAs in animal studies.

Presenting findings during a recent poster presentation at the 2011 European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress, Maslova et al said dairy products were an important source of micronutrients, fatty acids and probiotics that could “modify the risk of child asthma and allergy development”.

The scientists examined maternal milk and dairy intake during pregnancy, and monitored the prevalence of asthma and allergic rhinitis (AR) for children of 7 years, using Danish National Birth Cohort registries and questionnaires to assess allergies, which were self-reported.

Milk offers asthma protection

Women were recruited between 1996 and 2002, and were interviewed twice – before and after pregnancy. They also filled-in a questionnaire indicating frequency of milk and yogurt intake, milk fat content, and whether yogurt consumed during pregnancy was full or low-fat, and if it contained fruit.

Findings showed that within the whole group, at 7 years 5.9 per cent of children (2,316 out of 39,059) registered life-time asthma diagnoses, and 4.2 per cent (1,574 out of 37,347) reported current asthma.

The research results showed that milk intake during pregnancy was inversely associated with an increased risk of developing asthma, and even offered protection.

But the study findings also suggested that women who ate low-fat yogurt with fruit once a day were 1.6 times more likely to have children who developed asthma by the age of 7, compared with the offspring of women who reported no intake.

Maslova et al. wrote: “For yoghurt, children of women who ate low-fat yoghurt (with fruit) >=1 time/day had 1.61…greater odds of a registry-based asthma diagnosis compared to children of women reporting no intake.”

“They were also more likely to have a registry-based AR diagnosis… and to report current asthma, the scientists added.

Results explained

Non-fat related nutrient compounds in yogurt might be responsible for the increased risk of both child asthma and AR, the scientists suggested.

Lead author Ekaterina Maslova said: “This is the first study of its kind to link low-fat yogurt intake during pregnancy with an increased risk of asthma and hay fever in children.”

Since this could be “due to a number of reasons”, Maslova said, the team would conduct further research to determine whether this was due to nutrients in yogurt products or “similar lifestyle and dietary patterns [within the low-fat yogurt group] that could explain the increased risk of asthma”.

Title: ‘Low-fat yoghurt intake in pregnancy associated with increased child asthma and allergic rhinitis risk: A prospective cohort study’

Source: Unpublished. Presented as ERS Congress poster, September 25, 2011: ‘Low-fat yoghurt intake in pregnancy associated with increased child asthma and allergic rhinitis risk: A prospective cohort study’

Authors: E. Maslova, T.I Halldorsson, M.Strom, S.F Olsen.

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