Allergy prevention by breastfeeding: possible mechanisms and evidence from human cohorts

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Allergy is a modern disease which does not seem to benefit from breast milk preventive effects. We propose that maternal milk composition has not adapted to the needs of allergy prevention because of the recent and rapid increase of allergy. Modulation of breast milk composition may be the best strategy to counteract allergy development. We will review recent advances in understanding of allergy physiopathology and how breast milk factors may be specifically appropriate to interfere with allergy development in early life.

Recent findings

There is strong evidence both from rodent and human studies that breast milk factors may impact on parameters which are now recognized to be essential for allergy physiopathology: infant gut barrier function, microbiota metabolites production, and oral tolerance induction. Data from human cohorts support the possibility to modify breast milk composition by selected interventions and to impact health outcomes in offspring.

Summary

Nutritional intervention in lactating mothers should endow breast milk with the capacity to combat allergy epidemics in addition to infectious disease.

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