A recent Finnish research study suggests that a decline in biodiversity in the plants, animals and microbes in our daily environment may be linked to rising rates of allergies and asthma.
Researchers studied 118 Finnish teenagers and found links between a healthy immune system, growing up in more rural or natural setting, and the presence of certain skin bacteria.
This idea supports the biodiversity hypothesis – the idea that an environment with a diverse population of living things (including microbes) – is important for the development of a normal immune system in children. You may have heard of a similar idea, the hygiene hypothesis, suggesting that being exposed to microbes early in life trains our immune systems not to respond to harmless microbes or foreign substances (like pollen). The hygiene hypothesis suggests that we have become too clean for our own good.
Increasingly, scientists and researchers are realizing that we know less about many of the microbes that are in our environment, on our skin and inside our bodies. Nor do we know how they affect our health and bodily functions.
The authors of the study say that their results could support increasing biodiverse green spaces in cities, for our overall health. Maybe studies like this will help to emphasize the importance of biodiversity, even on the smallest scale.
To read more about this study and it’s implications:
“Rural teens less prone to allergies, study finds” an excellent summary of the study’s findings, by Susan Perry at the Minn Post.
Or a slightly more in depth break down of the science at Discovery News: Backyard Biodiversity May Stem Allergies
The original press release on ScienceDaily (links to the research article)