Sunday, September 18, 2011

Low-fat yogurt increases an unborn child's asthma risk

Pregnant women better not consume any low-fat yogurt, new studies suggest. According to scientists from Harvard, daily consumption of low-fat yogurt by pregnant women increased the risk on asthma for their offspring by 1.6. It is also linked to an increased risk of hay fever. The study was conducted to assess whether fatty acids from dairy products protect against the development of allergies such as asthma, which makes the outcome quite surprising.

The scientists also assessed the effect of milk consumption on the fetus. Interestingly, the effect was quite the opposite: milk intake of the future mother protected children against the development of asthma. The scientists gave no explanation for the outcome of their study, nor hinted at a possible mechanism underlying increased risk of asthma due to low-fat yogurt. One of the suggestions is that intake of low-fat yogurt is actually a marker for a specific lifestyle, which increases the risk of developing allergies such as asthma, dismissing a causal relationship between low-fat yogurt and asthma development. This hypothesis will be, among others, part of future studies needed to unravel the link that the Harvard researchers found between yogurt and allergies.

What to eat and drink during pregnancy is a much debated topic. Discussion about nutrition is not always backed up by scientific facts: there are a lot of old wives' tales about which food products may be beneficial for the unborn child. As low-fat yogurt is normally regarded as being healthy, I suspect many of us would actually recommend eating it during pregnancy. One of the most silly fairy tales about pregnancy is perhaps that drinking eight glasses of water a day supposedly cleans the amniotic fluid and basically baths your baby in the womb.

Are there more food products that yield unexpected effects on the unborn child? I expect so, and I reckon we will see more studies that link specific food intake during pregnancy with health effects on the offspring.

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