Parents who let their kids romp in the mud and eat food that has fallen on the floor could be helping to protect them against maladies like heart disease later in life, a US study showed Wednesday.
"Our research suggests that ultra-clean, ultra-hygienic environments early in life may contribute to higher levels of inflammation as an adult, which in turn increases risks for a wide range of diseases,including cardiovascular disease," Thomas McDade, lead author of the study, said.
Researchers at Illinios' Northwestern University looked at data from a study in the Philippines, which followed participants from birth to 22 years of age, to better understand how childhood environments affect production of a protein that increases when there is inflammation - a sign the body forced to fight infection or injury.
The data were compiled by tracking children born in the 1980s to 3,327 Filipino mothers. Researchers visited the children every two months for the first two years of their lives and then spaced out the visits to every four or five years until the kids reached their 20s.
Among items that the researchers assessed were the hygiene of the children's household environment - "whether domestic animals such as pigs and dogs roamed freely" - and their families' socioeconomic resources.