Eczema and allergies can disrupt peoples’ everyday lives. But could you help to protect your children from these distressing conditions simply by making some small changes to their diet? Giving your infant yogurt to eat may be a good idea, especially if you or your partner have eczema or allergies, the authors of this Letter suggest.
We usually think of food as fuel, providing us with energy and the building blocks for growth and repair of our bodies. It now seems that some foods may also be able to protect us against diseases. For example, introducing yogurt during the first year of life has been linked to a reduced risk of developing eczema and allergies.
New Zealand study adds to the evidence
In their study of maternal and infant health, the researchers provided mums with a daily probiotic or a placebo during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Either the mum or the biological dad of each baby had a history of asthma, hayfever or eczema.
The infants themselves didn’t receive the study treatments but the mums were asked to complete a questionnaire that included questions about the baby’s consumption of yogurt. The babies were examined for eczema at 6 months and 12 months of age and underwent skin prick tests for allergies at 12 months.
All yogurt sold in New Zealand (where this study was carried out) must contain live microbes, and homemade yogurt is usually made from pre-seeded starter kits using the same types of microbes. The study results showed that infants who ate yogurt were significantly less likely to develop eczema and allergies than those who didn’t eat yogurt. What’s more, 6–12 month-old infants who ate yogurt at least 2–6 times a week were significantly less likely to develop eczema and allergies than those who ate yogurt less than once a month, say the authors.
What the evidence shows
This study isn’t the first to show this association. Overall, studies have shown that yogurt consumption in infancy is associated with a 50–80% reduction in the number of cases of infant eczema and allergy. Microbes present in yogurt may play a role in this association, say the authors.
‘Early daily yogurt consumption appears to reduce eczema and early atopic sensitization particularly to food antigens.’ – Crane J, et al, 2018.