My son has always been a picky eater, even when he was an infant. His favorite foods changed every day, but one treat was consistent: Greek yogurt. And it’s a good thing I fed it to him, too: New research shows that feeding babies yogurt may reduce their chances of developing eczema and other allergies.
A new study published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy found infants who are given yogurt as a regular part of their diet in their first year of life have a lower eczema and allergy risk. A team of New Zealand researchers discovered that eating yogurt daily by age one decreased eczema and allergy in little ones by up to 70%.
For the study, researchers asked 390 New Zealand mothers about the different foods they gave their infants in their first year, as well as monitored the babies regularly for signs of eczema. They also gave the children a skin prick test for allergies when they turned a year old.
“The more regularly yogurt was given, the greater the effect,” says lead research Dr. Julian Crane, a professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington.
The findings suggest that feeding infants yogurt regularly can give them added protection against eczema and other allergies. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to wait until age 1 to add cow’s milk to a baby’s diet, but notes “other milk-based products such as cheese and yogurt are safe before age 1”.
Although the new study shows the added benefits of yogurt, there are still some things that are unknown. “We found that regular consumption of yogurt gave stronger protection, but what we don’t know yet, is what type of yogurt is best or how much is protective,” says Crane.
Still, this is not the only research to link yogurt to lower eczema and allergy rates. A PLOS Medicine study published in February showed that pregnant women and nursing mothers who use probiotics—good bacteria that benefit digestive tract health—are more likely to have babies without eczema than mothers who didn’t take probiotics. Specifically, researchers found that young kids had a 22% lower risk of developing eczema if their mothers used probiotics during pregnancy and while nursing.
To get these findings, the team analyzed data from a total of about 1.5 million people involved in more than 400 studies, 28 of which were trials focused on probiotic use among roughly 6,000 pregnant women through the first six months of nursing. Most of the trials that were reviewed looked at the effects of the bacteria lactobacillus, which is a common probiotic found in yogurt and other fermented foods.
“There was already some evidence that probiotic exposure in early life may reduce risk of eczema in an infant,” senior study author Dr. Robert Boyle, a professor at Imperial College of London, tells Reuters. “But this study makes it clearer that maternal probiotics during pregnancy and while breastfeeding seem to protect infants from eczema, whereas probiotics added to an infant’s diet directly do not seem to protect infants from developing eczema.”
Even though more research is needed on the type of yogurt is best at protecting against eczema and allergy, there’s enough evidence to suggest that the food is beneficial as a whole. So mamas, if your babies love Greek yogurt, keeping feeding it to them.