The following piece does not directly relate to smoking, but ties in with my writing in Chapter 8: Smoking and Heart Disease and Chapter 9: Smoking and Asthma. The content offers food for thought on the wider scale of health issues.
Keeping youngsters squeaky clean could be bad for their heart
Parents obsessed with cleanliness could be actually harming their children’s hearts, claim scientists.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
The trend for antibacterial soaps could increase youngster’s chance of being unhealthy later in life as exposure to everyday germs may prevent heart disease in adulthood.
The study is the first to look at how contact with germs early in life affect the immune systems response to diseases associated with ageing in adulthood.
It suggests that exposure to infectious bacteria early in life may actually protect individuals from cardiovascular diseases that can lead to death as an adult. It does this by damaging the body’s natural response to attack – namely inflammation of the surrounding tissue.
Over inflamation is actually a bad thing that can lead to increased blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Professor Thomas McDade, lead author of the study at Northwestern University, in Chicago, said: “Contrary to assumptions related to earlier studies, our research suggests that ultra-clean, ultra-hygienic environments early in life may contribute to higher levels of inflammation as an adult, which in turn increases risks for a wide range of diseases.”
Relatively speaking, humans only recently have lived in such hyper-hygienic environments, he stressed.
The study compared research results from a long-term project in the Philippines, which followed the lifestyle and health 3,300 families over 22 years, with those from a similar American survey.
In particular they looked at the level of a substance in the blood – known as C-reactive protein (CRP)- which is a predictor of heart disease.
Blood tests showed that CRP levels in the Filipino young adults were at least 80 per cent lower relative to their American counterparts, though the Filipinos suffered from many more infectious diseases as infants and toddlers.
Anecdotal evidence also showed their environments were much less hygienic when they were growing up.
The results were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
“In the U.S we have this idea that we need to protect infants and children from microbes and pathogens at all possible costs,” Professor McDade said.
“But we may be depriving developing immune networks of important environmental input needed to guide their function throughout childhood and into adulthood.
“Without this input, our research suggests, inflammation may be more likely to be poorly regulated and result in inflammatory responses that are overblown or more difficult to turn off once things get started.”