BACKGROUND: Whether breast milk (BM) can protect against allergy has been studied extensively, with conflicting results. Variations in mothers' BM composition may explain some of the conflicting results. Our aim was to assess the impact of maternal allergy and probiotic intervention on BM food antibodies, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β(2) and interleukin (IL)-10 and their impact on allergy development in children until the ages of 2 and 5.
METHODS: We measured total IgA, IgA antibodies to cow's milk (CM), casein, β-lactoglobulin and ovalbumin (OVA), TGF-β(2) and IL-10 in 364 colostrum samples and 321 BM samples taken at 3 months from mothers participating in a prospective study evaluating the allergy-preventive effect of probiotics in a cohort with an increased risk for allergy.
RESULTS: CM, casein and OVA antibodies, TGF-β(2) and IL-10 were detectable in most samples. Maternal allergy was associated with raised levels of IgA to casein (p = 0.04) and lower levels of TGF-β(2) (p = 0.006) in mature BM. Probiotic supplementation was associated with increased IL-10 (p = 0.046) and decreased casein IgA antibodies (p = 0.027) in mature BM. High OVA IgA antibodies in colostrum were associated with the development of atopy by the age of 2, while low levels in mature BM were a significant risk factor for the development of eczema by the age of 2. TGF-β(2) levels in BM constituted a risk for development of allergy by the age of 2.
CONCLUSIONS: The immunologic composition of BM was only slightly affected by maternal atopy and could be altered by probiotic supplementation. Small effects of BM components on allergy development in children were evident.
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