Milk and butter may help to protect infants against asthma, according to research published yesterday. It said a Western obsession with low-fat diets might be contributing to soaring rates of the disease.

Milk and butter may help to protect infants against asthma, according to research published yesterday. It said a Western obsession with low-fat diets might be contributing to soaring rates of the disease.

Daily consumption of full-cream milk and butter was linked with reduced rates of asthma in a Dutch study of almost 3,000 two-year-olds.

Other dairy products, such as yoghurt and chocolate milk, were also found to reduce the likelihood of developing wheeze and asthma.

The results, published in the journal Thorax, were related to the number of children who suffered asthma at the age of three. Children who consumed butter and full-fat milk daily had significantly lower rates. Similarly, wheezing was lower in children who consumed dairy products, including yoghurt and chocolate milk, every day.

Dr Alet Wijga of the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven said fatty acids or antioxidants could be the key ingredients.

Lower rates of asthma were also linked to eating brown bread. Children who consumed fruit juice and vegetables daily were less likely to be asthmatic but the difference was too small to be statistically significant.

The researchers found no independent association between eating margarine and rising asthma rates. Some studies have suggested there is a link.

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