Can Organic Dairy Reduce the Risk of Eczema in Babies?
A large prospective cohort study published in the March 2008 issue of the peer-reviewed British Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of organic dairy products, such as organic milk, can reduce the risk of atopic eczema in infants. This "baby study" followed 2764 infants until the age of two. The researchers investigated the infants' eating patterns by collecting data using repeated questionnaires which the parents were asked to complete. The first questionnaire was completed already at the third trimester of pregnancy. Subsequent questionnaires were sent to the parents when the infants were 3, 7, 12 and 24 months old.
The parents were asked whether their child had consumed vegetables, fruit, dairy products, meat, eggs, bread and/or dry products such as rice, beans, pasta and wheat. If the answer was positive, the parents were also asked whether these foods had been organically or conventionally produced. The questionnaires allowed the parents to choose from three options: "conventionally produced" (organic in fewer than 50% of the occasions when the food was eaten), "moderately organic" (organic in 50-90% of the occasions), or "strictly organic" (organic in more than 90% of the occasions). The data showed that 2306 (or 84%) of the 2764 infants involved in the study had consumed a conventional diet, 283 (10%) had consumed a moderately organic diet, and the remaining 175 infants (6% of the total) had been eating mainly organic foods during the first two years of their life.
Interestingly, the only organic food group that was found to reduce the risk of eczema in infants was dairy. Furthermore, similar anti-eczema effects associated with organic dairy use were observed when the analysis was performed using information on the mothers' diet during pregnancy instead of the children's diet.
No statistically significant association was found between the development of eczema and a diet favoring organic (as opposed to conventionally produced) meat, fruit, vegetables or eggs. The researchers also found no association between a high overall consumption of organic food and the development of eczema in infants.
This study was conducted by researchers from from the Louis Bolk Institute Department of Health Care and Nutrition in the Netherlands.
Ischa Kummeling, Carel Thijs, Machteld Huber, Lucy P. L. van de Vijver, Bianca E. P. Snijders, John Penders, Foekje Stelma, Ronald van Ree, Piet A. van den Brandt and Pieter C. Dagnelie (2008). Consumption of organic foods and risk of atopic disease during the first 2 years of life in the Netherlands. British Journal of Nutrition, 99(3), 598-605