21 February 2024

Breast is best for baby skin

Paediatrics Women

Breastfeeding exclusively for the first four months of life lowers the odds of psoriasis in children, research suggests.

Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first four months of life have lower odds of developing psoriasis, research suggests.

Infants who were given formula before four months had almost double the odds of developing the autoimmune skin disease, the Swedish study also found.

Researchers said consuming large amounts of cow’s milk in early childhood may increase the risk of psoriasis. They found children who consumed more than 600mL of cow’s milk per day had more than 2.5 times the odds of developing psoriasis by their third birthday.

The research, including more than 15,000 children, found those who were breastfed for less than four months had 84% higher odds of developing psoriasis compared with 15,000 controls who did not have autoimmune diseases.

The researchers also found that babies who were given infant formula before four months had 88% higher odds of developing the disease by age three.

Researchers said it was the first study to show the effect of very early nutrition on psoriasis development.

“It appears evident that exclusive breastfeeding during the first four months of life significantly reduces the risk of subsequently developing psoriasis, while the early introduction of formula, in Sweden based on cow’s milk, increases the risk,” they wrote in the British Journal of Dermatology.

“Exclusive breastfeeding for four months seems protective.”

The four-month mark is lower than the Australian infant feeding guidelines, which recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and to continue breastfeeding for one year or for as long as the mother and baby want.

“The mechanism behind the risk of cow’s milk proteins triggering an autoimmune response has been studied extensively,” the researchers wrote.

“It may also be that breast-feeding influences the gut microbiome, which is of great importance in the development of a normal and well-balanced immune system.”

“Breastfeeding should be encouraged and facilitated in modern life and the early introduction of formula should be postponed until after four months of age.”

Parents filled out questionnaires about their children including their diets at birth and ages one and three.

They gave detailed information about breastfeeding duration, the age formula was introduced (if at all) and their diet, including how much cow’s milk and fish they consumed. Participants were excluded if they had other autoimmune diseases.

There was bad news for children who were fed fish from the Baltic Sea: they had 9.5 times the odds of having developed psoriasis by their third birthday. Fish from the Baltic Sea contained toxins and shouldn’t be eaten by children or pregnant women more than two to three times a year, the researchers said.

Children who ate any type of fish had 18 times the odds of developing psoriasis before age 13.

“Nutrition early in life appears to have a significant effect on the risk of developing psoriasis many years later through early adulthood,” the researchers said.

The researchers acknowledged that genetic factors played a role in the development of psoriasis but said environmental factors such as diet were increasingly being investigated as potential triggers of the disease.

British Journal of Dermatology 2024, online 2 February