Breastfeeding mothers with a sense of humour may help their babies fight skin allergies, according to a study reported in next Saturday's issue of New Scientist.
Japanese researcher Hajime Kimata at Osaka's Moriguchi-Keijinkai Hospital recruited breastfeeding mums who had a baby with a common allergy, mild atopic eczema. Some of the mothers were shown either a Charlie Chaplin movie or boring footage about weather, and their breast milk was taken for testing at regular intervals.
Two milk feeds later, the infants were tested for their reaction to dust mites and latex -- and those whose mothers had laughed had "markedly reduced reactions," the British science weekly says.
The key may lie in melatonin, a hormone associated with relaxation, and whose levels are typically low among people with eczema. The laughing mothers had higher levels of melatonin in their breastmilk.
The study appears in full in a specialist publication, Journal of Psychomatic Research.