May 6, 2012

Amish Children Less Likely To Develop Asthma, Allergies

New research from an Indianapolis-based allergist has revealed that some Amish children are less likely to suffer from asthma or allergies than other youngsters.

In his study, lead author Dr. Mark Holbreich analyzed Amish kids who were raised on rural farms in northern Indiana and found that they even have lower rates of those two ailments than Swiss children, who are widely recognized for their lack of allergy-related symptoms, Reuters reporter Kerry Grens wrote on Friday.

Dr. Holbreich polled 157 Amish families, approximately 3,000 Swiss families who lived on farms, and nearly 11,000 Swiss families who did not live on farms, all of whom had children between the ages six and twelve, Grens said. He discovered that only 5% of the Amish kids had been diagnosed with asthma, while 6.8% of farm-raised Swiss kids and 11.2% of other Swiss kids had received such a diagnosis.

"Similarly, among 138 Amish kids given a skin-prick test to determine whether they were predisposed to having allergies, only 10 kids -- or seven percent -- had a positive response," the Reuters reporter added. "In comparison, 25 percent of the farm-raised Swiss kids and 44 percent of the other Swiss children had a positive test, the researchers report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology."

"The rates are very, very low," Dr. Holbreich, who has reportedly been treating Amish families for 20 years and noticed during that time that very few of them seemed to have suffered allergy-related symptoms, said. He added that he and his colleagues believed that there was "something that we feel is even more protective in the Amish" than in the Swiss farming communities and that the aim of his research "is to try to find a way to prevent this allergy and asthma epidemic that western populations are facing."

Exactly what the reason for that phenomenon is remains unclear.

Grens reported that previous research suggests that contact with cows and regular exposure to microbes could help explain why farm-raised children as a whole are less likely to develop allergies or asthma, and Dr. Holbreich believes that drinking raw cow's milk could also be a factor.

The factor that causes greater resistance among Amish children than their Swiss counterparts remains unexplained, he told Reuters, but it is possible that it could be due to the larger-size of Amish families or the amount of time they spend outdoors or in barns in comparison to other farming families.


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