The Hygiene Hypothesis contradicts what many people think…extreme cleanliness may actually lead to more diseases, such as asthma and allergies. Now research has linked this idea that germs and viruses are good for us to the prevention of heart disease.
NBC News explains:
Early childhood viral infections might reduce the risk of developing heart disease later in life by as much as 90 percent, researchers from Sweden and Finland reported at the IV World Congress of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery.
According to the investigators, “improved hygiene in early childhood might partially explain the greatest epidemic of the 20th century — coronary heart disease.”…
Researchers led by Dr. Erkki Pesonen, from the University Hospital in Lund, Sweden, compared 350 patients who had unstable angina or a heart attack with 350 subjects without coronary heart disease (control subjects). The study participants answered a questionnaire about their childhood experience with contagious diseases, specifically whether they had ever had chickenpox, scarlet fever, measles, German measles, mononucleosis, or infection of the parotid salivary glands.
Childhood contagious diseases were more frequent in the controls, researchers noted. Furthermore, they found a consistent trend between the number of childhood infections and the reduction in coronary risk. For instance, having two childhood viral infections reduced the coronary risk by 40 percent; four infections was associated with a 60-percent decreased risk; and six infections lowered the risk by 90 percent.
Immune system development does depend on minor illness. It’s part of the human condition. Clearly hygiene is important, as many deadly diseases and infections are prevented by simple hand washing and sanitation; however, the use of antibacterial products on a regular basis are not doing our children any favors. We need to save these products for serious outbreaks when their use is warranted and allow our children to experience normal germ exposure for optimal immune system development.
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