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Vitamin C in breast milk may reduce the risk of atopy in the infant


Objective: To assess the effects of maternal dietary and supplement intake of vitamins C and E on breast milk antioxidant composition (vitamin C, α-tocopherol and β-carotene) and their protective potential against the development of atopy in the infant.

Design, subjects and methods: Mothers with atopic disease were recruited at the end of gestation and maternal sensitization was assessed by skin-prick testing. The 4-day food records of the mothers and breast milk samples were collected at the infants' age of 1 month. Infants' atopy was defined by the presence of atopic dermatitis during the first year of life and a positive skin-prick test reaction at 12 months of age (n=34).

Results: Maternal intake of vitamin C in diet but not as supplement was shown to determine the concentration of vitamin C in breast milk. A higher concentration of vitamin C in breast milk was associated with a reduced risk of atopy in the infant (OR=0.30; 95% CI 0.09–0.94; P=0.038), whereas α-tocopherol had no consistent relationship with atopy. The group at risk of suboptimal vitamin C supply from breast milk was identified as infants whose mothers suffer from food hypersensitivity.

Conclusion: A maternal diet rich in natural sources of vitamin C during breastfeeding could reduce the risk of atopy in high-risk infants.

Sponsorship: The Academy of Finland, the Juho Vainio Foundation and the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

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Correspondence to U Hoppu.

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Guarantors: U Hoppu and E Isolauri.

Contributors: UH was responsible for the collection of dietary data and analysing and reporting of the data and MR for the clinical evaluation of the infants. VP, PS-V and A-ML were responsible for the antioxidant and fat analysis. EI designed and supervised the study and contributed to data analysis and presentation. All the authors contributed to the writing and revising the manuscript.

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Hoppu, U., Rinne, M., Salo-Väänänen, P. et al. Vitamin C in breast milk may reduce the risk of atopy in the infant. Eur J Clin Nutr 59, 123–128 (2005).

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  • antioxidant
  • atopy
  • breast milk
  • dietary intake
  • vitamin C

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