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Milk Plus Prebiotics Prevent Eczema in Babies

A systematic review of published studies involving more than 1400 infants suggests that adding a prebiotic to a baby’s milk formula or breast milk may help prevent eczema up to age two. Australian researchers David A. Osborn, PhD, and John KH Sinn, of the University of Sydney searched for published studies, conference reports, and clinical trial registries and found four which reported on allergy outcomes in babies aged 4-24 months. The meta-analysis was published recently in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Many young children (34%) develop asthma, atopic eczema (20%), and food allergies (8%).  Their analysis of data showed that adding prebiotics, composed of indigestible components of milk, vegetables, and fruit, to their milk can stimulate the activity of good bacteria in the intestines, leading to significant reduction in the incidence of eczema. It must be noted that prebiotics are different from probiotics, which consist of live bacteria cultures found in foods and supplements.

The researchers however found that the quality of evidence in existing studies were low to very low, and only one study investigated the effects of prebiotics on high risk children. Lead researcher Sinn states that it still remains unclear if prebiotics must be given only to high-risk infants or even to those who have lower risk of developing allergies. Furthermore, their study only covers children up to two years old. The author believes that more high-quality research has to be done to establish the routine use of prebiotics in the prevention of allergies.


Hand, L. Prebiotics May Guard Against Infant Eczema. Medscape.

Posted in: Babies' Health, News Briefs

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