Objective: To assess the effects of maternal dietary and supplement intake of vitamins C and E on breast milk antioxidant composition (vitamin C, alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene) and their protective potential against the development of atopy in the infant.
Design, subjects and methods: Mothers with atopic disease were recruited at the end of gestation and maternal sensitization was assessed by skin-prick testing. The 4-day food records of the mothers and breast milk samples were collected at the infants' age of 1 month. Infants' atopy was defined by the presence of atopic dermatitis during the first year of life and a positive skin-prick test reaction at 12 months of age (n=34).
Results: Maternal intake of vitamin C in diet but not as supplement was shown to determine the concentration of vitamin C in breast milk. A higher concentration of vitamin C in breast milk was associated with a reduced risk of atopy in the infant (OR=0.30; 95% CI 0.09-0.94; P=0.038), whereas alpha-tocopherol had no consistent relationship with atopy. The group at risk of suboptimal vitamin C supply from breast milk was identified as infants whose mothers suffer from food hypersensitivity.
Conclusion: A maternal diet rich in natural sources of vitamin C during breastfeeding could reduce the risk of atopy in high-risk infants.