Researchers Believe Living on a Farm Makes You Healthier

Why? A study aims to pinpoint the reason children around agriculture have less allergies than others.

By Nancy Dorman-Hickson

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0315health1“Farms give us food, fiber and fuel, all essentials of life. But now we are also asking for them to give us the secret of why living on a farm makes you healthier.” So says Matthew C. Keifer, MD, MPH.

Keifer is an investigator for a National Institutes of Health-funded study being conducted by the National Farm Medicine Center at the Marshfield Clinic, in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin. The study is looking into why farm children have less asthma, wheezing and allergic reactions than non-farm children. Researchers will enroll some 100 pregnant farm women and 100 pregnant non-farm women, searching for variables that make the difference in their children. For now, the study, which ends in 2017, has focused on farms with animals. “The strongest evidence for this protective effect is in large-animal agriculture—hogs and cattle,” says Keifer.

He adds, “Allergic conditions are overreactions of the immune system. If we can figure out what it is about the farm environment that modulates or calms down the immune system, we can probably develop a method to get that kind of remedy available to non-farm kids.” Stay tuned. Researchers hope to make results from the study available in 2017 or 2018.