ω-3 fatty acids contribute to the asthma-protective effect of unprocessed cow's milk

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Abstract

Background Living on a farm has repeatedly been shown to protect children from asthma and allergies. A major factor involved in this effect is consumption of unprocessed cow's milk obtained directly from a farm. However, this phenomenon has never been shown in a longitudinal design, and the responsible milk components are still unknown. Objectives We sought to assess the asthma-protective effect of unprocessed cow's milk consumption in a birth cohort and to determine whether the differences in the fatty acid (FA) composition of unprocessed farm milk and industrially processed milk contributed to this effect. Methods The Protection Against Allergy - Study in Rural Environments (PASTURE) study followed 1133 children living in rural areas in 5 European countries from birth to age 6 years. In 934 children milk consumption was assessed by using yearly questionnaires, and samples of the "usually" consumed milk and serum samples of the children were collected at age 4 years. Doctor-diagnosed asthma was parent reported at age 6 years. In a nested case-control study of 35 asthmatic and 49 nonasthmatic children, 42 FAs were quantified in milk samples. Results The risk of asthma at 6 years of age was reduced by previous consumption of unprocessed farm milk compared with shop milk (adjusted odds ratio for consumption at 4 years, 0.26; 95% CI, 0.10-0.67). Part of the effect was explained by the higher fat content of farm milk, particularly the higher levels of ω-3 polyunsaturated FAs (adjusted odds ratio, 0.29; 95% CI, 0.11-0.81). Conclusion Continuous farm milk consumption in childhood protects against asthma at school age partially by means of higher intake of ω-3 polyunsaturated FAs, which are precursors of anti-inflammatory mediators.

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Brick, T., Schober, Y., Böcking, C., Pekkanen, J., Genuneit, J., Loss, G., … Kabesch, M. (2016). ω-3 fatty acids contribute to the asthma-protective effect of unprocessed cow’s milk. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 137(6), 1699-1706.e13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2015.10.042

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