ectively, while the cumulative incidence for the extensively hydrolyzed casein formula decreased by 33 per cent, compared to the cow's milk formula group.
"The preventive effect developed in the first year and persisted into the third year, indicating real disease reduction rather than postponement of disease onset," wrote Von Berg.
The researchers also report that children with a genetic history of eczema in their family had a significantly reduced risk of eczema when consuming only the extensively hydrolyzed casein formula.
"This is indeed the first study to suggest that the allergic phenotype in the family rather than a biparental family history modifies the effect of nutritional intervention and may be considered when deciding which hydrolysate should be given," they said.
Infant formula is a highly emotive area, with watchdogs keeping a close eye on companies' marketing tactics lest they drift towards promoting their products as preferable to breast-feeding.
While it is agreed that breastfeeding is the best way to ensure an infant receives the nutrients it needs in its first months, formulas are indispensable in cases where mothers are unable to feed their children - be it for health or logistical reasons. Mothers' desire to give their children the best possible start in life means that there is scope for fortification.
Indeed, van Berg and her colleagues state: "It was… not the goal of our study to question this gold standard and show that hydrolysates are worse or better. Instead, we wanted to evaluate, in case of formula feeding (for whatever reason), which formula would be the best alternative to reduce the risk for allergic manifestations."
The latest market research on the overall baby food market, including milks and formulas, comes from Mintel, which estimates that the UK market was worth ￡329 million at retail in 2005.
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