Five-year follow-up of high-risk infants with family history of allergy who were exclusively breast-fed or fed partial whey hydrolysate, soy, and conventional cow's milk formulas

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1997 Apr;24(4):380-8. doi: 10.1097/00005176-199704000-00005.


Background: Allergy is a common cause of illness. The effect of feeding different infant formulas on the incidence of atopic disease and food allergy was assessed in a prospective randomized double-blind study of high-risk infants with a family history of atopy.

Methods: 216 high-risk infants whose mothers had elected not to breast-feed were randomized to receive exclusively a partial whey hydrolysate formula or a conventional cow's milk formula or a soy formula until 6 months of age. Seventy-two high risk infants breast-fed for > or = 4 months were also studied.

Results: Follow-up until 5 years of age showed a significant lowering in the cumulative incidence of atopic disease in the breast-fed (odds ratio 0.422 [0.200-0.891]) and the whey hydrolysate (odds ratio 0.322 [0.159-0.653) groups, compared with the conventional cow's milk group. Soy formula was not effective (odds ratio 0.759 [0.384-1.501]). The occurrence of both eczema and asthma was lowest in the breast-fed and whey hydrolysate groups and was comparable in the cow's milk and soy groups. Similar significant differences were noted in the 18-60 month period prevalence of eczema and asthma. Eczema was less severe in the whey hydrolysate group compared with the other groups. Double-blind placebo-controlled food challenges showed a lower prevalence of food allergy in the whey hydrolysate group compared with the other formula groups.

Conclusions: Exclusive breast-feeding or feeding with a partial whey hydrolysate formula is associated with lower incidence of atopic disease and food allergy. This is a cost-effective approach to the prevention of allergic disease in children.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eczema / prevention & control
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Glycine max*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Infant
  • Infant Food*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Milk Proteins
  • Milk*
  • Placebos
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Whey Proteins


  • Milk Proteins
  • Placebos
  • Whey Proteins