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Common bacteria protest against Type-1 diabetes

Once again we learn that our ultra-clean environments are not good for the kids. Researchers at Yale and the University of Chicago have found that common human bacteria protect against diabetes.

Many parents are familiar with the ‘hygiene hypothesis’. That is, reduced exposure to bacteria, viruses and parasites lowers our children’s immune systems. Therefore they are more susceptible to asthma, allergies, etc.

Since Type-1 diabetes is also an immune system disorder (the immune system attacks the insulin-producing pancreas), and because it is on the rise in may parts of the world but nearly unknown in the developing world, it has been a matter of intense debate and research. And now, a study published in the scientific journal Nature has linked Type-1 diabetes with the too-clean playroom.

Laboratory mice who lived in a germ-free environment developed severe diabetes. But those mice who were exposed to the types of bacteria commonly found in human intestines did not.

This research does not define how one thing leads to the other. But it does show a strong link between them. The article also mentions that only 10% of people with a genetic tendency to diabetes actually develop it. The rest may be environmental.

I am not one to respond to every new research study because they are so often overturned, but this one is different. For one, it supports other established theories. And two, it makes sense. Since my father died of complications from diabetes when he was 55, I am very interested in, and concerned about the disease, for myself and my children. I have never been overweight, but I know that isn’t the only risk factor.

My son happens to be almost obsessive about washing his hands. I’m sure it does him good, but I’ve actually struggled to get him to do it less. Now I have one more reason to tell him to stop. It’s also a little more justification for not vacuuming everyday?


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