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Proc Nutr Soc. 2000 Feb;59(1):81-6.

Are milk polyamines preventive agents against food allergy?

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Department of Biochemistry and Physiology, Institute of Chemistry, University of Liege, Sart Tilman 4000, Liege, Belgium.


Insufficient polyamine intake could play a role in the induction of sensitization to dietary allergens. This proposal is based essentially on investigations made in sucking rats and in children. In sucking rats it has been established that oral administration of spermine can induce all the modifications occurring in the digestive tract at weaning. In the intestine events occur in two phases. The early event consists of desquamation of the epithelium resulting from an activation of apoptosis. The late event appears to involve an hormonal cascade in which adrenocorticotropic hormone, cytokines, bombesin and corticosterone are included. Observations in human subjects show that: (1) the spermine and spermidine concentrations are generally lower in infant formulas than in human breast milk. Mothers seem consistently to have relatively high or relatively low concentrations of spermine and spermidine in their milk. These individual variations may be due to diet, lifestyle or genetic background; (2) the probability of developing allergy can reach 80 % if the mean spermine concentration in the milk is lower than 2 nmol/ml milk. It is approximately 0 % if the mean spermine concentration is higher than 13 nmol/ml milk; (3) preliminary results show that the intestinal permeability to macromolecules differs in premature babies when they are fed on breast milk compared with infant formulas (J Senterre, J Rigo, G Forget, G Dandrifosse and N Romain, unpublished results). This difference does not seem to be present when powdered milk is supplemented with polyamines at the concentration found in breast milk; (4) spermine increases proliferation and differentiation of lymphocytes isolated from the tonsils of children.

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