allergies

Researchers examine a partially hydrolyzed 100% whey formula (pHF) manufactured by Swiss company Nestle to determine whether it may help reduce predisposed allergies such as eczema or asthma in infants.

Allergies in infants are unpleasant for both child and parent. No one likes to see an infant squirm and scratch from the irritating effects of eczema, asthma, or other allergies. Infant eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a condition in which any part of a baby’s skin becomes itchy and rough. Hydrolyzed formula is a nutritionally sound option that has been rendered hypoallergenic, as it has few ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction.

The World Allergy Organization Journal published this study on July 26, 2017.  In this meta-analysis, the researchers examined findings from eight prior clinical trials involving nearly 2000 infants up to one year of age, living in industrialized nations worldwide and lasting from three to 12 months. In some of the cases, the participants were followed for up to 15 years.

While the scientists acknowledged many pHF formulas exist, they focused on just one pHF from Nestle to analyze its results and compared them with those found infants fed with cow’s milk. They stated the importance of examining a sole product as a constant factor across their meta-data analysis, as pHFs can and do contain different ingredients.

The evidence suggests that infants fed with pHF often do not succumb to allergies’ ravages at most points during their childhood and young-teen years compared to those fed cow’s milk formulas.

The researchers confirmed that they consulted with prior-study authors to clarify unclear elements and also contacted other experts in this field for guidance. Another strength of this meta-data study is that it relied on several well-respected analytics sources for its evaluation.  The authors also used the industry-accepted GRADE profile to assess the quality of the study data to include in the meta-analysis.

Potential limitations include the fact that pHF manufacturers did provide financial assistance in the various studies, but the degree to which the monetary input was not disclosed.  This leaves open the possibility of bias, as research has shown that industry-funded research is more likely to find positive results.  Additionally, the sample size was low in several of the studies.

In conclusion, although the certainty is low, there is evidence to support the use of pHF formulas to reduce the risk of allergies in infants, particularly eczema.  Further research will be necessary to determine which infants will benefit the most from this type of formula.

Written by Susan Mercer Hinrichs, MA, MBA, CPhT

Reference: A Partially Hydrolyzed 100% Whey Formula and the Risk of Eczema and Any Allergy: An Updated Meta-Analysis

Authors: Hania Szajewska and Andrea Horvath, both associated with the Medical University of Warsaw, Poland, Department of Pediatrics

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