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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 00:39 GMT 01:39 UK
Fermented milk 'cuts allergies'
A young boy
The young are vulnerable to food allergies
Ingredients of a mildly alcoholic milk drink could help protect children from food allergies, research has suggested.

Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from live bacteria cultures which is credited with having health benefits in parts of eastern Europe.

Research published by the Society of Chemical Industry reports kefir contains bacteria which could help reduce allergic responses.

Experts warned that much more testing needed to be done on the product.

Between 5% and 8% of children under the age of three are at risk from food allergies.

In the future, maybe we can screen out the certain components [bacterial strains or bioactive peptides] from kefir and utilize them in medicine
Ji-Ruei Liu, research team leader

Currently, the only way to deal with food allergies is to avoid problematic food.

According to the research, the milk drink inhibits the allergen specific antibody Immunoglobulin E (IgE).

IgE is involved in immune responses to inactivate organisms that might cause disease.

However, in the presence of allergens, it can also activate cells responsible for the release of histamine, a chemical which stimulates allergic responses, such as inflammation and constriction of airways.

Future hopes

Tests found that the amount of Ovalbumin specific IgE was reduced by three times when the milky drink was fed to mice. Ovalbumin is allergenic protein found in egg white which cause most allergies in young children.

Ji-Ruei Liu, who led the research at the National Formosa University in Taiwan, said: "In the future, maybe we can screen out the certain components (bacterial strains or bioactive peptides) from kefir and utilize them in medicine."

Sharon Matthews, an allergy specialist from the Isle of Wight NHS Primary Care Trust in the UK, said: "We need much more supportive evidence before a human trial could be contemplated."

The research featured in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

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