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Habitual yogurt intake in infancy helps prevent atopic dermatitis, food sensitization

Jairia Dela Cruz
24 Jan 2017

The likelihood of developing atopic dermatitis and food sensitization may be low among children with habitual consumption of yogurt products in infancy, according to a recent study.

Habitual or daily consumption of yogurt in infancy lowered the odds of developing atopic dermatitis by 30 percent (based on the United Kingdom Working Party [UKWP] criteria: adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.70; 95 percent CI, 0.51 to 0.97; p=0.03) and the odds of being sensitized to food allergens by 47 percent (adjusted OR, 0.53; 0.31 to 0.93; p=0.03) at 5 years of age. [J Dermatol Sci 2017;doi:10.1016/j.jdermsci.2017.01.006]

No such associations were observed with regard to other allergic diseases.

A subanalysis of children with allergic parents showed similar results. Habitual yogurt consumption in infancy had a protective association with atopic dermatitis (based on the International Studies of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood [ISAAC] criteria: adjusted OR, 0.69; 0.48 to 0.99; p=0.046; UKWP criteria: adjusted OR, 0.69; 0.48 to 0.98; p=0.038) and with sensitization to foods (adjusted OR, 0.51; 0.27 to 0.96; p=0.038).

When yogurt intake was stratified according to frequencies (every day, sometimes, never), the protective effect on atopic dermatitis and food sensitization was observed in the sometimes and every day groups but not in the never group (p<0.05). This effect increased with increasing intake frequency (p<0.05 for trend).

The study population comprised 1,166 children (50.6 percent male). Based on data from parent-completed questionnaire, yogurt consumption frequency was ‘every day’ in 432 children, ‘sometimes’ in 617, and ‘never’ in 87.

Atopic dermatitis prevalence at 5 years was 30.8 percent based on the UKWP criteria and 22 percent based on the ISAAC criteria. In 975 children with data on specific IgE concentrations, 57.7 percent were sensitized to any one of the total 103 allergens, 56.7 percent to inhalant allergens and 8.8 percent to food allergens.

“Yogurt contains Lactobacillus species, and it is the most representative probiotic food. Probiotics are thought to be potentially useful not only for supplementation of certain microbes, but also for manipulation of intestinal microbial communities, immunomodulation and fortification of the intestinal barrier,” researchers said.

They noted that although the exact in vivo mechanism of action of probiotics in shaping the immune response was currently unknown, evidence showed that a mixture of different probiotic strains might be more effective in promoting an ecological barrier than a single strain.

“At least 10 to 15 different single-strain products of lactobacilli were used to make the yogurt products that are commercially available in our study area. [This further supports that] habitual consumption of readily available multiple-strain yogurt products could be a realistic approach for preventing atopic dermatitis even if the efficacy of each strain has not been assessed,” they said.

Additional translational studies are warranted to confirm the association between yogurt and allergic diseases, as well as the role of the microbiome as a mediator, they added.

The researchers cited several limitations to the study, including the lack of information regarding the amount of yogurt intake and the selection of the study population from particular urban areas. 

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