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Do combined elimination diet and prolonged breastfeeding of an atopic infant jeopardise maternal bone health?


D Holmberg-Marttila, Department of General Practice, Medical School, FIN-33014, University of Tampere, Finland.


Prolonged breastfeeding, and intervention in the maternal diet during breastfeeding, have been suggested as a means to treat atopic symptoms of infants. The impact of these actions on the mother's skeletal health has remained unclear.

The purpose of this study was to determine factors that are associated with bone mineral density (BMD) and serum lipid fatty acid profile in mothers of atopic infants.

BMD at the lumbar spine, right femoral neck and dominant distal radius of 24 mothers of atopic infants (study group) and 25 mothers of healthy infants (control group) were measured with dual energy X-ray absorptiometry postpartum after the resumption of menses. In addition, the fatty acid profile of their serum cholesteryl esters was determined.

A systematic trend for 4–6% lower BMD was observed in the study group, but this difference was mainly attributable to a difference in body weight between the groups. In addition, the omega (ω)-3 fatty acid metabolite EPA showed a positive association with femoral neck BMD. Mothers of atopic infants had a significantly lower proportion of ω-6 fatty acid parent LA and a higher proportion of ω-6 fatty acid metabolite GLA than the control mothers. These differences were associated not only with dietary factors but also with the duration of postpartum amenorrhea and total lactation.

Neither the breastfeeding nor the mother's short-term elimination diet per se seemed to be associated with low BMD in the mothers of atopic infants. Thus, if an elimination diet benefits the infant, it can be recommended for a limited period. However, it may be advisable to give special dietary counselling, especially to low body weight mothers, in order to ensure adequate nutrient intake and to minimize the possible risk of potential bone loss.