Early Multivitamins, Asthma, and Food Allergies

We know that the first months of life are a very impressionable time when it comes to the developing immune system. Even brief breastfeeding in the first few months of life, for instance, may give long-term protection from asthma. On the flip side, exposure to some foods in the first months may predispose to later allergies and asthma. Could the same thing happen with multivitamins?

Researchers followed more than 8,000 babies and toddlers to try to find out. The results were published in the July 2004 Pediatrics. Formula-fed babies who got multivitamin drops in the first 6 months of life were on average 1.6 times more likely to develop food allergies than were other formula-fed babies. This association did not hold for breastfed kids. But African-American babies who got vitamin drops in the first 6 months were on average 1.3 times more likely to develop asthma than their peers. The asthma connection did not hold in other ethnic groups or for those who started taking vitamins later. Overall, about 90 percent of the babies and toddlers in the study did not develop asthma, and 95 percent did not develop food allergies. The patchwork study results leave many unanswered questions, but suggest that getting too much of these powerful compounds too early may have unwanted side effects.

Published on: July 07, 2004
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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