Is cleanliness to blame for diabetes?

Is it possible that higher diabetes rates are linked to extreme sanitation?

That's the theory behind a recent study from researchers at the University of Helsinki, where a team found that high levels of sanitation are positively correlated with type 1 diabetes.

It appears that Finland's diabetes problem, which sees about 58 cases per 100,000 people, is linked to the country's strict standards of cleanliness and sanitation.

Hygiene hypothesis

Researchers suspect that the hygiene hypothesis might be at work – which suggests that cleaner living environments can actually weaken the immune system, as lack of exposure to bacteria causes a greater susceptibility to disease.

“We are working along the idea that we have a trigger which most likely is an infectious agent,” Mikael Knip, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Helsinki, told the Washington Post. “There is an association between such infections and appearance of antibodies.”

Knip explained that there are some microbes that can actually protect children from developing type 1 diabetes if exposure occurs early in life.

Other diseases linked to sanitation

Previous research has shown that exposure to salmonella can lower asthma risk in children, and a recent study from Cambridge University found a link between sanitation and higher incidence of Alzheimer's disease. And while conditions like type 1 diabetes, asthma and Alzheimer's may have several risk factors, the current study suggests that microbes may play a critical role.

“We are at a stage in understanding that a change in microbial flora in high abundance or low abundance in the human gut can precede the onset of human diabetes,” said Desmond Schatz, medical director at the University of Florida’s Diabetes Center of Excellence. “It’s all well to demonstrate there may be changes, but the next step is to associate changes in bacteria with function.”

Findings of the study are published in the journal Infection and Immunity.

Source: Washington Post

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