Vitamin C in breast milk may reduce the risk of atopy in the infant

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;59(1):123-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602048.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Ascorbic Acid / analysis
  • Ascorbic Acid / immunology
  • Breast Feeding
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / epidemiology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / immunology
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Milk, Human / immunology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Tests
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin E / analysis
  • Vitamin E / immunology


  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamin E
  • Ascorbic Acid