||Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00
Fermented milk may help reduce risk of certain food allergies in babies, according to Taiwanese researchers, who attributed the possible benefit to friendly bacteria or probiotics found in Kefir, a traditional fermented drink, which is used to usually wean babies.
These probiotics are involved in blocking a common pathway that induces allergic responses in babies, the researchers said. The study led by Dr. Ji-Ruei Liu at the National Formosa University in Yunlin, Taiwan and colleagues found that Kefir inhibits the allergen specific antibody Immunoglobulin E (IgE).
IgE is implicated in immune response that ultimately results in the release of histamine, a chemical that triggers the allergic reactions, which may be fatal in some cases, if the airways are constricted.
Food allergies are especially common in young children under the age of three. Around 5 to 9 percent of infants are exposed to the risk of developing complications as a result of these food allergies. Thus far, avoiding the risky foods has been the only known treatment.
In the current study, researchers gave Kefir to laboratory mice for three weeks. They found the mice had a three-fold reduction in the levels of ovalbumin (OVA) specific IgE, which is responsible for triggering majority of allergies in children.
Researchers also theorized that Kefir may prevent food allergens from penetrating beyond the intestinal wall. Dr. Liu suggested that the milky drink might be an effective tool against all types of allergies.
"In the future, maybe we can screen out the certain components (bacterial strains or bioactive peptides) from kefir and utilize them in medicine," Dr. Liu said.
The results of the study appear in the latest issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
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