The Effect of Breastfeeding on the Development of Atopic Diseases
Atopy is a genetic predisposition to produce an immune response against diverse antigens or allergens that induce T helper 2 cell differentiation and associated with elevated IgE levels. Atopic diseases that share this mechanism include eczema, food and respiratory allergies. Eczema is a condition in which the skin become irritant and inflamed due to exposure to allergic substances. Food allergy is another atopic disease caused by the ingestion of allergic food such as milk, egg and peanuts and irritate the gut mucosal surface resulting in diarrhea and other symptoms. Asthma is an example of respiratory allergies, which is a condition of inflamed, narrowed airways leading to difficulties in breathing. Environmental factors also have a role in the sensitization and later development of atopic disorders in infancy because their immune system is still immature
Atopic diseases are common worldwide health problems and because of their genetic nature, a lot of studies investigate how to prevent the development of such diseases by adjusting the environmental factors that might provoke the expression of these genes. Most of these studies were related to the role of breastfeeding and its components as it is an important environmental factor and has an important role in the development and modulation of the immune system. The study was done in helsinki university central hospital and involved 235 healthy, newborn babies born at term during the first 3 months of 1975. The newborns were grouped according to their breastfeeding duration into prolonged (6 months or more), intermediate (6 months or less) and short or no breastfeeding (1 month or less) and followed up for 17 years. The investigations were about the development of eczema, food and respiratory allergies. Then the results revealed that the risk of development of eczema and respiratory allergies was reduced in prolonged breastfeeding group, while the risk of food allergy development was most reduced in short or no breastfeeding group. The study concluded that breastfeeding has beneficial effect on reducing the development of some atopic diseases by various levels.