Objectives: To assess the current evidence for the role of breastfeeding in the development of early onset inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with a systematic review.
Study design: An electronic database search was performed (January 1966-January 2008) with keywords related to IBD and breastfeeding, looking specifically for studies that reported outcome in early-onset disease (<16 years of age) and "any exposure" to breast milk as the variables. Meta-analysis of studies included for review was then performed by using a random effects model, and results were expressed as odds ratios (OR) with 95% CIs.
Results: A total of 79 articles were identified, 20 of which were found describing breastfeeding in relation to the development of IBD; 8 of these articles included separate early-onset groups. One study did not describe "any exposure" to breast milk for the early onset group, so 7 studies were included in the meta-analysis. Breast milk exposure had a significant protective effect (OR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.51-0.94; P = .02) in developing early-onset IBD. A non-significant difference was demonstrated for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease individually (OR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.51-1.02; P = .06; OR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.38-1.07; P = .09, respectively).
Conclusions: The current evidence demonstrates a possible protective effect for breast milk in the development of early onset IBD. However, the quality of existing data is generally poor. These findings need to be investigated in well-designed prospective studies.