The Hygiene Hypothesis and where it goes wrong

I had a school assignment where I had to disagree or agree with the hygiene hypothesis. Obviously most people in my class agreed with it. I think it’s a seriously flawed hypothesis. The assignment is shown below (and my response)

Read these two articles about the hygiene hypothesis. Form an opinion (250 words max. Please ignore the error in word-count for this assignment found at the end of Module 4), citing information from the articles, about whether or not you agree or disagree with the proposed hypothesis: a lack of childhood exposure to germs and certain infections restricts normal immune system development and can make individuals more susceptible to disease later in life.

I disagree with the hygiene hypothesis but I agree with the biome depletion hypothesis. In the article “Educate Your Immune System,” an argument was made in favor of the hygiene hypothesis but one sentence was glazed over. “They controlled for diet, so it probably wasn’t food — although the Finns generally eat more packaged foods than the Russians” (1). This is a serious topic that the author is ignoring. Packaged foods can easily manipulate a person’s microbiome (in a single day), and suggesting that diet was controlled but Finns ate more packaged foods suggests that diet wasn’t controlled (2). A scientific study about the microbiome that doesn’t strictly control for diet, isn’t scientific. In places where there are more pathogens, there is less variety in the diet, and packaged foods are less available. The article “The “hygiene hypothesis” for an allergic disease is a misnomer”, suggests that the cause of autoimmune disorders is because of biome depletion (3). The hygiene hypothesis isn’t a misnomer, it’s just incorrect. Biome depletion is much more likely and its diet that influences the microbiome. The microbiome plays a role in whether autoimmune diseases develop, not a lack of childhood exposure to germs and certain infections. People in places with a higher prevalence of autoimmune disorders consume more packaged foods, grains, and sugar than places with a lower prevalence of autoimmune disorders (4). I believe it’s just a coincidence that places that eat processed foods are also cleaner.

  1. Velasquez-Manoff, Moises. “Educate Your Immune System”. com. N.p., 2017. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.
  2. Turnbaugh, P. J. et al. “The Effect Of Diet On The Human Gut Microbiome: A Metagenomic Analysis In Humanized Gnotobiotic Mice”. Science Translational Medicine6 (2009): 6ra14-6ra14. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.
  3. Parker, W. “The “Hygiene Hypothesis” For Allergic Disease Is A Misnomer”. BMJaug26 2 (2014): g5267-g5267. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.
  4. Richards, James L et al. “Dietary Metabolites And The Gut Microbiota: An Alternative Approach To Control Inflammatory And Autoimmune Diseases”. Clinical & Translational Immunology5 (2016): e82. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

These kinds of articles come out all the time and you have to be very careful reading them. Most of these studies are done badly and miss the big picture.

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3 Comments

  1. Maybe I’m mistaken but I understood this question more in terms of infections than in autoimmune diseases which might be a different question entirely.

  2. Your style is uniqᥙe in comparison to other folks I’ve read
    stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity,
    Guess I’ll just bookmark this page.

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