Hydrolysed infant milk formula does not appear to protect against allergic or autoimmune disorders and that feeding guidelines should be revised, according to UK researchers.
Current infant feeding guidelines in North America, Australasia, and Europe recommend hydrolysed cows’ milk formula, in place of standard infant formula, to prevent allergic and autoimmune diseases in infants during the first months of life.
“Our findings conflict with current international guidelines”
However, researchers at Imperial College London have found no consistent evidence that partially or extensively hydrolysed milk formula prevents allergic or autoimmune diseases in infants.
They carried out a systematic review and meta analysis of 37 intervention trials undertaken between 1946-2015 and involving over 19,000 participants.
Trials compared hydrolysed cows’ milk formula with another hydrolysed formula, human breast milk, or a standard cows’ milk formula.
Outcomes looked for included common allergic conditions, such as asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis and/or conjunctivitis, food allergy and allergic sensitisation, and the autoimmune disease type 1 diabetes.
“We found no consistent evidence to support a protective role for partially or extensively hydrolysed formula”, said the study authors in the British Medical Journal.
“Our findings conflict with current international guidelines, in which hydrolysed formula is widely recommended for young formula fed infants with a family history of allergic disease,” they added.
In an accompanying editorial, researchers from the University of Melbourne, said: “It seems that these formulas are currently recommended in the hope that they might prevent allergic disease and on the basis that they are unlikely to do any harm.”
“It is now time for this evidence to be used for updating and clarifying current recommendations and guidelines,” they suggested.