The increasing prevalence of allergic diseases in infants and children as well as adults has become an important issue in public health in industrial countries. However, few preventive measures are available to reduce the risk of allergic diseases in infants; e.g. the avoidance of smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy and lactation. Therefore, there is an enthusiasm to identify certain factors in foods, nutrients, and environment responsible for the primary prevention of allergic diseases during infancy. In the last decade, TGF-β in maternal milk has been implicated in the prevention of allergic diseases in infants and young children. This review summarizes the relevant epidemiological reports and highlights the recent animal studies to support the preventive role of orally administered TGF-β, such as TGF-β in human milk, in the development of allergic diseases in infants. We also provide suggestions for the potential use of dietary (oral) TGF-β for the primary prevention of allergic diseases. Further studies to address the scientific validity and mechanistic insight to this Mother Nature-inspired concept are clearly required and will be important to develop new approaches to prevent allergic diseases.
Cite this as: A. Nakao, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2010 (40) 725–730.