British Journal of Nutrition

Diet and immunology

The immunological and long-term atopic outcome of infants born to women following a milk-free diet during late pregnancy and lactation: a pilot study

Julie A. Lovegrovea1, Shelagh M. Hamptona1 and Jane B. Morgana1

a1 Division of Biomedical Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 5XH, Surrey

Abstract

Infants born to atopic parents have been found to be at high risk of allergy development. The present study investigated the effect of a maternal milk-free diet during late pregnancy and lactation on the immune response and allergy incidence in at-risk and control infants. Atopic mothers were randomly allocated into an intervention group (n 12) or an unrestricted-diet group (n 14) and compared with non-atopic mothers following an unrestricted diet (n 12). The intervention involved a maternal milk-free diet during late pregnancy and lactation. Infants were followed up for 18 months postnatally. A significant fall in maternal serum β-Iactoglobulin (β-Lg)–immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody levels (P < 0.05) was observed after a 7-week milk-exclusion diet. In maternal and cord serum samples the levels of β-Lg–IgG and α-casein–IgG antibodies were significantly correlated (r 0.89, P < 0.0001 and r 0.71, P < 0.001 respectively). Higher levels of β-Lg–IgG (P < 0.05) were observed in the cord serum samples compared with paired maternal serum samples. Single-blind allergy assessment by a paediatrician at 12 and 18 months showed that the infants born in the non-atopic group had a significantly lower allergy incidence compared with the infants born in the atopic group following an unrestricted diet (P < 0.008 and P < 0.02 respectively). The allergy incidence in the infants born in the atopic diet group was significantly lower compared with that of the atopic group following an unrestricted diet (P < 0.04). It was observed that the atopic nature of the parents significantly affected the allergy incidence in their children. A trend towards a beneficial effect of a maternal milk-free diet during late pregnancy and lactation was also observed in infants born to atopic parents.

(Received October 22 1992)

(Revised February 18 1993)

(Accepted April 01 1993)