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Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden say children who live on farms that produce milk run one-tenth the risk of developing allergies compared to other rural children.
Heath experts say there's been a dramatic increase in the occurrence of allergic diseases in Western societies in recent years, and one often-cited reason is that children are less exposed to microorganisms and have fewer infections than previous generations. As a result, that delays maturation of their immune system.
The researchers monitored children until the age of three to track the maturation of their immune system in relation to allergic disease. All of the children lived in rural areas in Sweden, with half of them on farms that produced milk. The study found that kids being raised on dairy farms ran a much lower risk of developing allergies than the other children.
“Our study also demonstrated for the first time that delayed maturation of the immune system, specifically B-cells, is a risk factor for development of allergies,” says Anna-Carin Lundell, one of the researchers.
The study found children with an allergic disease between the ages of 18 and 36 months had a higher percentage of immature B-cells in their blood circulation at birth and during the first month of life.
The researchers suggest that pregnant women may also benefit from spending time on dairy farms to promote maturation of the fetal and neonatal immune system.
Lundell says they will now try to identify the specific factors on daily farms that strengthen protection against allergies.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio