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The effect of diet in infancy on asthma in young adults: the Merthyr Allergy Prevention Study


Introduction Early infant diet might influence the risk of subsequent allergic disease.

Methods The Merthyr Allergy Prevention Study (MAPS) was a randomised controlled trial in infants at high risk of allergic disease. The trial determined whether a cow’s milk exclusion diet for the first 4 months of life decreased the risk of allergic disease including asthma compared with a normal diet. A soya milk preparation was offered to those in the intervention group. A standardised questionnaire for allergic disease was completed at ages 1, 7, 15 and 23 years, with clinical assessment at 1, 7 and 23 years. The effect of the intervention on the risk of atopy, asthma and wheeze at age 23 years was determined.

Findings 487 subjects entered the study; at age 23 years 299 completed the questionnaire, of which 119 attended clinical assessment. Subjects randomised to the intervention group had a significantly increased risk of atopy (adjusted OR 2.97, 95% CI 1.30 to 6.80; p=0.01) and asthma (OR 2.07, 95%CI 1.09 to 3.91; p=0.03) at age 23 years, but not wheeze (OR 1.43, 95%CI 0.87 to 2.37; p=0.16). Earlier exposure to cow’s milk was associated with a decreased risk of wheeze and asthma at age 23 years, while earlier exposure to soya milk was associated with an increased risk of atopy and asthma.

Interpretation In infants at high risk of allergic disease, either cow’s milk exclusion or early soya milk introduction for the first 4 months of life increases the risk of atopy, wheeze and asthma in adulthood.

  • asthma
  • paediatric asthma

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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