New Study Looks at “Hygiene Hypothesis”

The Hygiene Hypothesis is the idea that in western culture where exposure to pathogens is limited by personal hygiene and hygienic foods, that the immune system lacks stimulation that theoretically may lead to autoimmune diseases like allergies or Type I Diabetes.

Last month in the Journal Cell, researchers published a study of Finnish, Russian and Estonian people looking at differences between populations who are relatively similar in genetic, climactic and community structure but varied in economic and standard of living characteristics.

The researchers investigated patterns of breastfeeding, allergies, family histories and the gut microbiota of infants. They found that the gut microbiota of infants in the areas with a higher standard of living had gut microbes dominated by Bacteriodes species while infants in less developed areas had gut microbes dominated by Bifidobacterium and were more diverse over the three years of study. In Russian Karelia where infant gut microbes were dominated by Bifidobacterium there is a significantly lower incidence of Type 1 Diabetes, however, the researchers cannot connect the two definitively.

The researchers say the study begins to shed light on how stimulation of the immune system in early life may be crucial to our “immune education” and when it goes wrong individuals may be set up for autoimmune disease later in life.

Source: Medical Express

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