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06-10-2009 | Respiratory | Article

Beta-carotene intake may reduce allergic sensitization risk in young children


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MedWire News: An increased intake of beta-carotene is associated with a reduced risk for allergic sensitization in young children, research suggests.

“The prevalence of atopy and allergic diseases has risen markedly over the last few decades,” write Clare Murray (University of Manchester, UK) and colleagues in the journal Allergy.

“Amongst many other environmental factors, variations in diet have been proposed as a possible cause of the increase in allergies (eg, a reduction in the intake of antioxidant vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, consequent to a reduction in intake of fresh green vegetables),” the researchers explain.

However, they add: “Although there are a number of studies which investigated the relationship between dietary antioxidant intake and allergic diseases in adults, there is a paucity of data in young children.”

To investigate whether dietary antioxidant intake at the age of 5 years is associated with atopy measured at 5 and 8 years-of-age, the team studied data on 861 children who were followed from birth as part of the Manchester Asthma and Allergy Study.

Parents completed a food frequency questionnaire and a respiratory questionnaire when their children were aged 5 years, and the children underwent skin prick tests and serum immunoglobulin E measurements at 5 and 8 years-of-age.

Analysis revealed that an increased intake of beta-carotene was associated with reduced risk for allergic sensitization at the ages of 5 and 8 years, at an odds ratio [OR] of 0.52 for the highest versus the lowest quartile of intake. In contrast, a higher intake of vitamin E was significantly associated with a higher risk for sensitization at the age of 5 years, at an OR of 1.78 for the highest versus the lowest quartile of intake .

However, there was no significant association between antioxidant intakes and wheeze or eczema, the researchers note.

Murray and team conclude: “In recent years, there has been a change in dietary patterns, with a decrease in consumption of fresh green vegetables and potatoes which are the main contributors of vitamin C and beta-carotene.

“Our results indirectly support the hypothesis that a decrease in antioxidant consumption, in particular beta-carotene, may be associated with an increased risk of atopic sensitization.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2009

By Mark Cowen

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