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Mom's diet linked to allergy risk in breast-fed baby

NEW YORK, Oct 06 (Reuters Health) - If you are a breast-feeding mother and love juicy burgers, buttery snacks and other high-fat treats, you may want to consider a dietary switch. A new study suggests that such a diet may increase your child's risk of allergies.

According to the report, breast-feeding infants whose mothers consumed high levels of total and saturated fat were 16% more likely to develop allergies than breast-feeding infants whose moms ate a carbohydrate-rich diet.

A family history of allergies greatly increases a child's risk of developing allergies. "Dietary factors may also have a remarkable impact" on a child's allergy risk, Dr. U. Hoppu and colleagues from the University of Turku, Finland, report in the September issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The authors explain that there has been a marked increase in allergies among people living in industrialized nations, possibly due to dietary changes such as greater fat intake. While studies have shown that breast-fed infants are less likely to develop allergies, it is not known whether a breast-feeding mother's fat intake would change this relationship.

To investigate, the researchers looked at 114 breast-feeding babies with a family history of allergies. Mothers kept a food record for 4 days when the infants were nearly 3 months old.

Nearly one quarter (23.7%) of infants became sensitized to common allergens by age one, most commonly to eggs, milk, wheat and cats. People who are sensitized to a substance have a skin reaction to it, but do not necessarily have obvious signs of an allergic reaction if, for example, they eat eggs or pet a cat. This seemed to be true regardless of the mother's allergies.

The authors recommend that breast-feeding mothers with a history of allergies be counseled to moderate their dietary fat intake, since a high intake of saturated fat is associated with a poor overall diet.

"The importance of a balanced and varied maternal diet for the subsequent health and nutritional status of both mother and child should be emphasized," Hoppu and colleagues write.

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