PURPOSE OF THE STUDY.
To evaluate the effects of infant consumption of processed and raw cow’s milk on common infections and fever in infants.
The study included 983 infants from Austria, Finland, France, Germany, and Switzerland recruited in the PASTURE birth cohort, all living in rural areas.
For this prospective birth cohort study (PASTURE), women in their third trimester of pregnancy were recruited from rural areas of Austria, Finland, Germany, and Switzerland. They were given weekly diaries to complete for their children for infections (including rhinitis, fever ≥38.5°C, otitis, cough, or diarrhea for at least 2 days) during the first year of life. Milk consumption was tracked, and children were grouped into the following categories: (1) ultra-heat treatment (UHT) milk and no farm milk, (2) pasteurized milk and no UHT or farm milk, (3) boiled farm milk irrespective of any shop milk, and (4) raw farm milk irrespective of any shop milk.
Rhinitis and cough occurred in the majority of patients in the study, whereas diarrhea and otitis were less common. Approximately 80% of the children were breastfed at birth, declining to 20% over the first year of life. Formula feeding increased to 90% by 8 to 9 months of age. By 12 months of age, 20% of children consumed boiled farm milk and pasteurized milk, whereas 12% of children consumed UHT and raw milk. Exclusive breastfeeding was inversely related to fever (odds ratio [OR] = 0.64 [0.49–0.83]). Any breastfeeding was related to otitis (OR = 0.61 [0.46–0.81]) and diarrhea (0.55 [0.43–0.70]). Of fresh milk types, raw farm milk showed the strongest protective effects for rhinitis (OR = 0.71 [0.54–0.94]; P = .0.15) and fever (0.69 [0.48–1.01]; P = .058). Boiled farm milk had similar effects on respiratory tract infections and fever. Weaker effects were shown for rhinitis and otitis. There were no associations between milk consumption and diarrhea. Formula did not appear to be protective against rhinitis, otitis, or fever.
Consumption of unprocessed cow’s milk was inversely associated with rhinitis, respiratory tract infections, and otitis media, with a 30% reduction noted. Raw milk consumption was associated with a stronger protective effect than boiled cow’s milk.
This study demonstrates the value of unprocessed milk consumption for preventing common childhood respiratory illnesses and fever and its potential association with reduced inflammatory response, findings that have been noted with breast milk consumption in previous studies. To take advantage of these benefits, it would be necessary to find methodologies to process cow’s milk to avoid the inherent microbial risk factors while retaining the beneficial immunoprotective factors of unprocessed cow’s milk, efforts that could have long-term health benefits.
- Copyright © 2015 by the American Academy of Pediatrics