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Breastfed children could have a lower risk of asthma and better lung function compared to their formula-fed peers, two new reports state. These new studies counter earlier reports that asthmatic mothers who nurse their babies could actually place them at a higher risk of developing it themselves later on.

One study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, followed over a thousand British children born in the mid-1990s. Their families took part in surveys about breastfeeding, smoke exposure and family history, and the kids had their lung function tested in a lab at age 14. The children were also tested for allergies and other respiratory issues.

The researchers found a direct link between breastfeeding and lung capacity the longer a child nursed, the higher he generally scored on the lung function test that measured the speed of air expelled from the lungs. Other lung function tests, related to how much air the lungs can hold, showed a significant benefit for kids who nursed for four months or more only if their mothers had asthma themselves (and were thus particularly at risk).

The second study wanted to find out much the same thing if breastfeeding could reduce the risk of asthma. These researchers, from New Zealand, also tracked the participants from the time they were born. In this case, the children's parents were asked if their child had been diagnosed with asthma, used an inhaler, or wheezed within the last year. Two hundred of the children who took the lung test had asthma. But the researchers concluded that every month of exclusive breastfeeding took the risk of asthma down by nine percent, which is definitively a significant number.

The research definitely disprove earlier claims that breastfeeding moms who happen to have asthma can somehow transfer the lung disease through their milk. The idea seemed a bit silly to start with, admittedly. We have to conclude that breastfeeding boosts the immune system in general, and that breast is best for the lungs too!

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