Breast-feeding and atopic disease: A cohort study from childhood to middle age

Melanie Matheson, Bircan Erbas, Aindralal Balasuriya, Mark A Jenkins, Cathryn Wharton, Mimi L Tang, Michael John Abramson, E Haydn Walters, John L Hopper, Shyamali Dharmage

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BACKGROUND: The literature regarding the association between breast-feeding and atopic diseases has been contradictory. OBJECTIVE: We have assessed the relationship between breast-feeding and atopic disorders in a cohort followed into middle age. METHODS: The Tasmanian Asthma Study is a population-based prospective cohort study that has followed participants from the age of 7 to 44 years. Exclusive breast-feeding in the first 3 months of life was examined as a risk factor for atopic diseases by using multiple logistic regression and generalized estimating equation analyses. RESULTS: At age 7 years, exclusively breast-fed children with a maternal history of atopy had a marginally lesser risk of current asthma than those not exclusively breast-fed (odds ratio [OR], 0.8; 95 CI, 0.6-1.0). However, after age 7 years, the risk reversed, and exclusively breast-fed children had an increased risk of current asthma at 14 (OR, 1.46; 95 CI, 1.02-2.07), 32 (OR, 1.84; 95 CI, 1.06-3.3), and 44 (OR, 1.57; 95 CI, 1.15-2.14) years. Exclusively breast-fed children also had a reduced risk of food allergy at age 7 years but an increased risk of food allergy (OR, 1.26; 95 CI, 1.1-1.5) and allergic rhinitis (OR, 1.2; 95 CI, 1.0-1.3) at 44 years. CONCLUSION: Exclusively breast-fed babies with a maternal history of atopy were less likely to develop asthma before the age of 7 years, but more likely to develop asthma after the age of 7 years. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: The current recommendation to breast-feed high-risk infants for protection against early wheezing illness can be confirmed. However, the recommendation should be reconsidered for protection against allergic asthma and atopy in the longer term.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1051 - 1057
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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