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Kids who grow up on farms have lower allergy risks, stronger lungs as adults


Farms

(NaturalNews) New research from the University of Melbourne, located in Australia, has revealed that growing up on a farm can yield lifelong health benefits. Specifically, children raised on farms are less likely to develop allergies. The data also indicated that females are more likely to have stronger lungs in adulthood.

The findings, which were published in late September by the journal Thorax, support the belief that biological factors have played a significant role in the increasing incidence of allergies and asthma. Previous studies have also suggested that increased exposure to microbes is linked to increased protection against such conditions.

Senior author, Professor Shyamali Dharmage, commented, "We found that early-life exposure to farm environments protects against adult allergic diseases. The novel finding is that women growing up on farms had stronger lungs than those who had lived in inner city areas, but at this stage we don't know why."

Britt Campbell, the study's lead author, says that the team wanted to get a clearer picture of what played a bigger role: biodiversity or location. She commented, "As any parent with a small child knows, childcare centres are hotbeds of viruses and bacteria, but it turns out that's nothing compared to a farm."

According to Ms. Campbell, their results demonstrated that living on a farm exceeds basically any other lifestyle factor in terms of protective benefits. For kids who lived in cities, suburbs or towns, having a pet or going to daycare didn't even come close.

The study was led by the Allergy & Lung Health Unit at the University of Melbourne's Center for Epidemiology & Biostatistics, in collaboration with the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and several European universities. In total, the researchers analyzed the early life experiences of 10,000 adults from 14 different countries across Europe, Scandinavia and Australia.

They found that children who lived on a farm between the time they were born and when they turned 5, were 54 percent less likely to have asthma than city children. Farm kids were also 57 percent less likely to have nasal allergy symptoms. And while the study was simply observational, the findings remained consistent among all 14 countries.

Professor Dharmage stated, "Some researchers have raised the possibility of socioeconomic status playing a role, but the uniformity of our findings suggest this is about biology—specifically, a big childhood hit of bacteria, viruses and parasites."

In 2012, a similar study found that the Amish people living in Indiana have some of the lowest rates of allergies and asthma in the Westernized world.

Lead author and Indiana allergist, Dr. Mark Holbreich, said at the time that the Amish way of life has a lot to do with it. Children play in barns; pregnant women still tend to the animals. The Amish community in northern Indiana that took part in the study were all of Swiss descent. The Swiss are known to have more or less the same allergy sensitization rates as Americans, so the comparison between the two was quite interesting.

In the study, 157 Amish families, 3,000 Swiss farming families and another 11,000 Swiss who did not live on farms participated. The scientists found that the Amish had allergy rates that were nearly half that of their Swiss relatives who didn't farm. With their shared ancestry, researchers believe that this is a strong indicator that environment is more important than genes.

Dr. Holbreich stated, "This [study] would suggest that if you have early life exposure [to allergens], then somehow it drives the immune system away from developing allergies."

The study's researchers also noted that the Amish community's penchant for drinking raw, unpasteurized milk yielded impressive health benefits.

Sources:

MedicalXpress.com

ABCNews.go.com

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