Parents' Effort Having Reverse Effect
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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
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
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:
"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
"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."