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Brick, Tabea; Schober, Yvonne; Böcking, Christian; Pekkanen, Juha; Genuneit, Jon; Loss, Georg; Dalphin, Jean-Charles; Riedler, Josef; Lauener, Roger; Nockher, Wolfgang Andreas; Renz, Harald; Vaarala, Outi; Braun-Fahrländer, Charlotte; Mutius, Erika von; Ege, Markus Johannes; Pfefferle, Petra Ina (2016): omega-3 fatty acids contribute to the asthma-protective effect of unprocessed cow's milk. In: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Vol. 137, No. 6: pp. 1699-1706
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Abstract

Background: Living on a farm has repeatedly been shown to protect children from asthma and allergies. A major factor involved in this effect is consumption of unprocessed cow's milk obtained directly from a farm. However, this phenomenon has never been shown in a longitudinal design, and the responsible milk components are still unknown. Objectives: We sought to assess the asthma-protective effect of unprocessed cow's milk consumption in a birth cohort and to determine whether the differences in the fatty acid (FA) composition of unprocessed farm milk and industrially processed milk contributed to this effect. Methods: The Protection Against Allergy-Study in Rural Environments (PASTURE) study followed 1133 children living in rural areas in 5 European countries from birth to age 6 years. In 934 children milk consumption was assessed by using yearly questionnaires, and samples of the ``usually'' consumed milk and serum samples of the children were collected at age 4 years. Doctor-diagnosed asthma was parent reported at age 6 years. In a nested case-control study of 35 asthmatic and 49 nonasthmatic children, 42 FAs were quantified in milk samples. Results: The risk of asthma at 6 years of age was reduced by previous consumption of unprocessed farm milk compared with shop milk (adjusted odds ratio for consumption at 4 years, 0.26;95% CI,0.10-0.67). Part of the effect was explained by the higher fat content of farm milk, particularly the higher levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated FAs (adjusted odds ratio, 0.29;95% CI,0.11-0.81). Conclusion: Continuous farm milk consumption in childhood protects against asthma at school age partially by means of higher intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated FAs, which are precursors of anti-inflammatory mediators.