These Baby Formulas Don't Stop Asthma, Allergies
Review of nearly 70 years of data found no protective effect; experts urge breast-feeding instead
By Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, March 8, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Many parents who worry that their baby is at risk of asthma, allergies or type 1 diabetes may turn to special cow's milk formulas touted to lower the risk.
But a new review of the data on these "hydrolyzed" infant formulas finds no good evidence that they actually protect children from the autoimmune disorders.
"We found no consistent evidence to support a protective role for partially or extensively hydrolyzed formula," concluded a team led by Robert Boyle of Imperial College London in England.
"Our findings conflict with current international guidelines, in which hydrolyzed formula is widely recommended for young formula-fed infants with a family history of allergic disease," the study authors added.
One expert in the United States said the finding casts doubt on the usefulness of these special formula products.
"Allergies and autoimmune diseases [such as asthma and type 1 diabetes] are on the rise and it would be nice if we did have a clear route to preventing them," said Dr. Ron Marino, associate chair of pediatrics at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.
"Unfortunately, despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration support [for hydrolyzed formula], the data are not compelling," he said.
According to the British researchers, many infant feeding guidelines worldwide -- including North America, Australasia and Europe -- recommend hydrolyzed cow's milk formula instead of standard infant formula to prevent autoimmune disorders during the first months of life.
Dr. Punita Ponda is assistant chief of allergy and immunology at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She stressed that when it comes to infant feeding, breast milk is by far the healthiest option.
However, "current mainstream guidelines for infant formula do recommend that parents consider using hypoallergenic formula if a close family member -- like an older brother or sister -- has a food allergy," she said. That was based on prior studies supporting some kind of protective effect, Ponda said.
However, the U.K. team found no consistent evidence to support the recommendations, according to their review published March 8 in the BMJ.