Does Socioeconomic Status Affect Peanut Allergies?
According to a recent global survey of changing patterns of food allergies in children, Western Countries have seen an incidence upwards of 10% of school-aged children possessing a food allergy. Furthermore, according to this same study only 2% of children in mainland China possess a food allergy. What has produced such different numbers among the world's children?
Food allergies have soared among US children.
After examining 8,306 patients of varying socioeconomic statuses, the American College of
Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology concluded that wealthier American children aged one to nine
are increasingly becoming more allergic to peanuts than their poorer counterparts. Why? The
college supports the hygiene hypothesis, which states that among the wealthy, “lack of early
childhood exposure to germs…increases the chance for allergic diseases. Over sanitization
might suppress the natural development of the immune system.” This well-known theory has
been documented in England, Ireland, Canada, and Germany.
The hygiene theory, however, is not popular among many medical specialists. Dr. Graham Rook, Graham Rook, an emeritus professor of medical microbiology at University College London rejects it: “We know an awful lot now about why our immune system’s regulation is not in terribly good shape, and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with hygiene.” Instead, he believes that an “early exposure to a diverse range of ‘friendly’ microbes—not infectious pathogens—is necessary to train the human immune system to react
appropriately to stimuli.”
If this theory is true, then the hygiene hypothesis is very misleading and harmful as it suggests that children should be exposed to harmful bacteria and pathogens to strengthen their immune systems at an early age. Dr. Rook urges Americans to disregard this theory and believes that its acceptance would only lead to more infections and illnesses among the public.
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Written by Albert Daniel Shub & Edited by Rachel Weissman & Alexander Fleiss
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