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01-04-2013 | Immunology | Article

Unpasteurized milk linked to reduced asthma, allergy risk


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medwireNews: Consumption of unpasteurized milk in early life is associated with a reduced risk for asthma and allergies, results from a Polish study suggest.

In a study of 1700 individuals from a rural region of Poland, Barbara Sozańska (Wrocław Medical University) and team found that consumption of unpasteurized milk in the first year of life was associated with an approximate 50% reduced risk for asthma and atopy in later life compared with nonconsumption.

"The mechanism of protection is unclear, but may be related to bacterial composition, protective protein or fat components, and the methods of processing milk," they suggest in Allergy.

The participants, from one small town and seven surrounding villages in southwest Poland, completed questionnaires on asthma and allergy symptoms and diagnoses, occupation (including farming), unpasteurized milk consumption, and demographic characteristics.

They were also assessed for atopy using skin prick tests for four aeroallergens (house dust mite, mixed grass pollens, mixed tree pollens, and cat fur).

Overall, 73.5% of village and 58.0% of town residents reported drinking unpasteurized milk in the first year of life.

After accounting for age, gender, first-born status, maternal age, and current smoking, the team found that unpasteurized milk consumption in early life was associated with a reduced risk for asthma in both town and village residents, at adjusted odds ratios (aORs) of 0.51 and 0.59, respectively.

Consumption of unpasteurized milk was also associated with a reduced risk for atopy in both town and village residents, at respective aORs of 0.46 and 0.59.

The protective effect of unpasteurized milk consumption in infancy against asthma was greater in farmers than nonfarmers, at ORs of 0.30 and 0.72, respectively. Conversely, the protective effect against atopy was greater in nonfarmers than farmers, at respective aORs of 0.42 and 0.82.

Sozańska et al conclude: "Early-life exposure to unpasteurized milk may protect against atopy, asthma, and related conditions, independently of place of residence and farming status, and in both children and adults."

They add: "These protective effects appear to be strongest for consumption in early life, but continued consumption in adult life may provide additional benefits."

By Mark Cowen, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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