Milk fat may reduce risk of Asthma

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Asthma, Nutrition

A group of scientists from the Dutch National Institute of Public
Health and the Environment, have found that young children who eat
products which are high in milk fat are less likely to develop the
chronic condition asthma.

The results are based on a study which was carried out on 3,000 two-year olds in the Netherlands. Researchers concluded that children who had consumed butter and cream milk on a daily basis were at a lower risk from developing the condition, which, according to the World Health Organisation effects 150 million people worldwide.

However, past research that has been carried out has suggested that milk fat increases the risk of developing the condition. A range of opinions have developed on the nutritional value of milk in the diet of those who could prove to be prone to asthma.

Past research carried out on the topic has implied that asthma development is linked to the consumption of saturated fat which is present in high concentration milk. A diet which is high in polyunsaturated fats, which can be found in products such as margarines and vegetable oils, is generally thought to double a child's chance in suffering from asthma.

"We think that the role of fatty acids may be important. The fat we eat consists of a variety of different fatty acids, depending, among other things, on whether the fat is derived from plants, from mammals or from fish,"​ Dr Wijga, a researcher from the group told BBC News Online.

"The increase in the prevalence of asthma, enzema and hay fever in the western world may be related to the reduction in the consumption of saturated fat and the increase in the consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and in particular linoleic acid. Our findings are in line with this hypothesis,"​ Wijga added.

The UK has the highest level of severe asthma for children between the age 13 and 14 worldwide, and has the highest number of asthma sufferers in Europe. The chronic condition takes 1,500 lives each year which equates to an asthma related death every 6 hours. Treating asthma in the UK costs the NHS an average of £850 million annually, and respiratory diseases are now responsible for more deaths than coronary heart disease, according to statistics from the National Asthma Campaign.

Dr John Harvey, from the British Thoracic Society said that more research is needed to be carried out before a full conclusion can be drawn on the issue. He argues that moderation is the answer to diet issues and this may help to lower the risk of developing asthma.

Professor Martyn Partridge, chief medical adviser to the UK's National Asthma Campaign, said that multiple lifestyle changes over the last three decades have resulted in the increase in the illness. Dutch scientists agree that lifestyle is a factor in the development of the illness. They say that the results have shown that the condition can no longer be though as being purely a genetic illness.

Wijga stressed that more information is needed before advice can be administered from the group, and more factors would have to be taken into consideration before nutritional advise is given to asthma sufferers:"Nearly all the evidence on the harmful effects of a high consumption of saturated fat has been collected in adults and we know little about the risks and benefits of fat consumption in preschool children."

"There is too little data to permit concrete dietary advice to be given as to how to eat to avoid asthma,"​ Partridge concluded.

Visit the journal Thorax​ for more information on the results.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Fresh Milk

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