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Allergic or autoimmune disorders do not resolve with hydrolysed milk

Posted:  Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Many parents who fear that their baby is at risk of developing allergies or autoimmune disorders use hydrolysed cow’s milk. However, a recent systematic review has cast doubts on the benefits of such products in preventing allergies and autoimmune disorders.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the review looked at data from 37 studies that were conducted between 1946 and 2015, and included more than 19,000 participants. The researchers compared data on hydrolysed cow's milk formula with another hydrolysed formula, human breast milk, and a standard cow's milk formula.

Previous research has shown that consuming intact cow's milk protein in the form of infant formula can raise the risk of allergies and autoimmune diseases. Hydrolysed baby formula is a special type of formula that is treated with heat to break down milk proteins. Consequently, hydrolysed formula may reduce the possibility of infants developing allergic and autoimmune disorders. Current international infant feeding guidelines, as well as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a Cochrane systematic review, support this approach.

However, the researchers found that infants who received hydrolysed cow's milk formula did not have a lower risk of allergies or autoimmune diseases compared to those who received human breast milk or a standard cow's milk formula. The researchers also found no evidence to support an FDA-approved claim that a partially hydrolysed formula could diminish the risk of eczema, or the Cochrane conclusion that hydrolysed formula could prevent an allergy to cow's milk.

Moreover, the researchers identified conflict-of-interest and bias in some of the published studies that supported the use of hydrolysed formulas. Commenting on the review findings, Caroline Lodge and colleagues from the University of Melbourne said, "It is now time for this evidence to be used for updating and clarifying current recommendations and guidelines. Furthermore, we encourage industry to pursue development of effective allergy-reducing infant formulas and call for further transparent and well-conducted studies in this area."

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