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Breast is best in fight against childhood asthma

A University of Sunderland academic has discovered a link between breast feeding and a lower incidence in asthma in young children.

Dr Mohammad Shamssain and his research team recently completed a two phase study into the prevalence and severity of asthma in children in the North-East. Their research focussed specifically on the positive benefits of breast feeding in the prevention of asthma, and also the effect of obesity on the prevalence of asthma among young children.

Dr Shamssain and his team analysed 7,000 school children in the region aged 6-15 years.

The team discovered that children who had been breast fed for six months or more had a significantly reduced risk of asthma – particularly among young boys.

Dr Shamssain says: “Breastfed children showed lower prevalence rates of asthma, rhinitis and eczema, and the effect of breast feeding was more evident in boys than girls. Asthma and wheeze were resolved significantly earlier in breastfed children than those who were not breastfed.”

The University of Sunderland team discovered that breast feeding lowers the incidence of allergic disorders, and that children breast fed from 4-9 months had a significantly lower risk of asthma. Those breast fed up to 7-9 months had lower instances of persistence wheezing and coughing.

Dr Shamssain says: “Breast feeding is a cost-effective approach to a significant prevention of allergic disease in children. Our research demonstrates that exclusive breast feeding prevents the development of allergic diseases in children.”

In the second part of the study Dr Shamssain’s team discovered that both boys and girls in the highest BMI percentile, and are therefore classified as obese, have higher prevalence rates of asthma and respiratory symptoms (wheeze, cough, breathlessness and exercise-induced wheezing) than non-obese children.

Dr Shamssain says: “The association between overweight and exercise-induced wheezing is stronger in boys than girls. In boys, the risk of being overweight is associated with exercise-induced wheezing, life-time asthma, and current wheeze. In girls, the risk of being overweight is mainly associated with exercise-induced wheezing.

“These results demonstrate that obesity is a definite risk factor in asthma among young children, and there are gender differences regarding the respiratory risk of obesity.”

Dr Shamssain presented his findings at the European Respiratory Society in Berlin last week.

Tony Kerr | alfa
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