Infant formula of partially hydrolyzed whey is not the secret weapon for preventing childhood allergy and asthma

Published Online: June 23, 2011

News of the continuing rise in the prevalence of childhood allergy and asthma has parents and physicians earnestly looking for strategies that can block the development of allergic disease in children. One popular recommendation for babies with a family history of allergy has been to feed them a formula of partially hydrolyzed whey (pHWF) rather than a soy milk or cow’s milk formula, when exclusive breastfeeding ends. Because there is not sufficient evidence that this strategy actually does prevent the development of allergic diseases, Lowe et al in Australia designed a careful long-term research study to measure the true outcomes of using pHWF.

In a current issue of the The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Lowe et al report the results of their clinical comparison of 3 infant formulas tested in 620 infants who had a family history of allergic disease. The babies were followed during the first two years of their lives and when their mothers stopped breastfeeding, they fed their children either the pHWF whey formula, a conventional cow’s milk formula, or a soy milk formula.

During the study, skin prick tests to milk, egg, peanut, dust mite, rye grass, and cat dander were performed on the babies at three intervals and the researchers stayed in touch with the mothers through a series of 18 telephone interviews to gather information about the babies’ current health and any eczema, food reactions, asthma, or allergic rhinitis they had experienced.

The authors’ results showed that babies fed the whey formula had no lower risk of allergic disease than babies who drank cow’s milk or soy formulas. Despite the recommendation of many current clinical guidelines, the authors’ conclude that there is no evidence to support the recommendation of partially hydrolyzed whey formula as a prevention of allergic disease in babies with a family history of allergic disease.


The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is the official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

AAAAI - American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology