Keep Kids from Having to Avoid Peanut Butter; Raise Them in the Country

You’ve got to love the country. With all of those trees and flowers growing amongst seas of grass and weeds, there’s an ample amount of ammunition for nature to attack us in the form of allergies. And yet, it seems that Mother Nature provides a natural defense to go along with these potent weapons. Previous research has shown that environmental allergies are much less common in children growing up outside of the city.

And now, for the first time, a study from Northwestern University has shown that the same can be said about food allergies.

In fact, nearly 10 percent of children in urban centers have food allergies, compared to just 6.2 percent of their contemporaries in rural communities. To go along with that, city slickers have twice the rate of peanut allergies and three times the rate of reactions to shellfish.

So what gives?

The argument could be made for seasonal allergies that just being around the stuff from an early age causes the body to adapt. But country kids aren’t more or less likely to get into a jar of peanut butter or enjoy some surf and turf than children in urban areas.

For now, there’s no answer to this question. But Ruchi Gupta, assistant professor of pediatrics, is taking this study and running with the results. Perhaps there are some environmental causes that could help future prevention efforts.

After all, what is a childhood without being able to eat peanut butter and Cheetos?

But until science can figure it out, you might consider a home remedy. Most food allergies come from an immune response. In 2004, scientists tried to counter that reaction by injecting mice with parasites, giving the animals’ immune systems the sort of threat they evolved to fight, thus distracting them from the food proteins.

It worked.

Then, inspirited by the experiment and eager to end his own allergies, in 2007 British-born entrepreneur Jasper Lawrence flew to Cameroon and walked barefoot near some latrines. He was trying to pick up some hookworms, which he hoped would defeat his asthma and seasonal allergies.

That worked too.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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