Communion Of Dreams

This confirms it.
December 9, 2009, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Health, Science

A number of health researchers have wondered whether an over-enthusiastic effort to create an ultra-clean/hygenic environment for children was behind a growing rate of asthma and possibly even obesity and cardiovascular disease. And now it looks like there’s pretty good evidence to support this:

Germs May Be Good For You

Exposing kids to nasty germs might actually toughen them up to diseases as grown-ups, mounting research suggests.

A new study suggests that higher levels of exposure to common everyday bacteria and microbes may play a helpful role in the development of the body’s inflammatory systems, which plays a crucial role in the immune system’s fight against infection.

“Inflammatory networks may need the same type of microbial exposures early in life that have been part of the human environment for all of our evolutionary history to function optimally in adulthood,” said Thomas McDade, a professor of anthropology at Northwestern University and lead author of the study.

The investigation focused on how various early childhood environments affected levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which rises in the blood because of inflammation. C-reactive protein is also considered by researchers to be a predictor of heart disease, independent of lipids, cholesterol and blood pressure, though the association has been disputed.

While earlier studies have been conducted in relatively affluent settings such as the United States, the researchers were interested in how C-reactive protein production differed in a country like the Philippines, a population with a high level of infectious diseases in early childhood, but low rates of obesity and cardiovascular diseases when compared to Western countries.

Turns out, the Filipino participants in the study had one-fifth to one-seventh the CRP levels of Americans.

Now, consider – the slow plague of obesity has also been linked to the spread of a virus (which I have written about previously). Could it be that because of an over-emphasis on protecting children from exposure to immune-system-building microbes more people are now susceptible to this obesity-causing virus? Did 20th century germophobia set the stage for 21st century heart disease?

Jim Downey

2 Comments so far
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There’s an old saying that a child should eat a peck of dirt before s/he is six. Or something like that. I probably had my quota – along with a few random bugs and other items. We didn’t wash our hands after petting the dog, I know more than one child who licked the dog’s nose, we survived cat scratches and muddy cuts and other random childhood injuries. And in my family, allowing for a few things wearing out here and there, we’re mostly healthy and not obese.

I still don’t own any Purell. Nasty stuff.

Comment by ML

[…] in obesity. Previously there were indications that it might be due to some kind of virus. Or an immune response to the germaphobia of the 20th century. But maybe it is more directly our own damned fault, and […]

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