Objective: A reduced risk of atopic dermatitis (AD) among healthy infants who received 100% whey protein partially hydrolyzed formula (PHF-W) compared with intact protein cow's milk formula (CMF), has been reported in several studies. To validate these observations and estimate the magnitude of this potential association with greater statistical precision, we conducted a meta-analysis of clinical trial and intervention studies.
Materials and methods: A total of 18 articles representing 12 independent study populations met our inclusion criteria.
Results: A statistically significant 44% (summary relative risk estimate [SRRE] = 0.56, 95% confidence interval 0.40-0.77) reduced risk of atopic manifestations, which included AD, was found among infants receiving PHF-W compared with infants receiving CMF. In a subanalysis of 4 studies that reported results specifically for AD and that were considered of superior methodological quality, the incidence of AD was reduced by 55% (SRRE = 0.45, 95% confidence interval 0.30-0.70).
Conclusions: Regardless of study design, infant population, follow-up time, or study location, individual study findings were consistent because a reduced incidence of AD was reported in all of the reviewed studies. Exclusive breast-feeding should be encouraged as the standard for infant nutrition in the first months of life. For infants who are not exclusively breast-fed, feeding with PHF-W instead of CMF reduces the risk of AD in infants, particularly in infants with a family history of allergy.