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Keywords:

  • atopy;
  • antioxidants;
  • breastfeeding;
  • fatty acids;
  • fetal programming

Abstract

The perinatal phase is crucial for the development of the infant. The first priming of the immune system occurs before birth, and this process is influenced by the intrauterine environment. One factor of this priming seems to be the fetal nutrition, which mainly depends on maternal diet. After birth, breastfeeding offers optimal alimentation. Allergy prevalence has increased during the last decades. As a method of primary allergy prevention, exclusive breastfeeding for a period of 4 to 6 months is recommended. However, published data on the subject is conflicting. Therefore, this review article will focus on maternal nutrition during breastfeeding with regard to allergy development. Cytokine levels in breast milk seem to depend on maternal state of atopy as well as on her nutrition. Breast milk components can, on the other hand, infl uence immune response of the infant. Differences between recent studies concerning composition of breast milk regarding allergen content, immune mediators and nutrients are discussed and the role of early nutrition on long-term development in the offspring is shown. To summarize – albeit some confl icting results are published – a healthy and balanced maternal nutrition, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, milk products, nuts or oily fish, and breastfeeding of the infant seems to be the best way of childhood atopy prevention.