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Cats against asthma

A new study found that children who grew up with cats had a lower risk of developing asthma. What other diseases can furry net stars prevent?

Children who grew up with a cat for at least their first year of life were less likely to develop asthma. Photography: Jenny Lee Silver.
Children who grew up with a cat for at least their first year of life were less likely to develop asthma. Photo: Jenny Lee Silver.

By Racheli Vox, Angle, Science and Environment News Agency

There is no doubt that cats upgrade any home. In the winter they curl up in our laps, caress, purr and soothe us. In the summer they eliminate the pests that enter our house. Throughout the year they are the undisputed rulers of the Internet and provide non-stop entertainment, and everywhere they go they are accompanied by the mysterious aura that has fascinated many generations for thousands of years.

Some cat owners swear that their cat can heal them: whether it's by sitting right next to the part of the body that hurts, or by simply bringing healing in their presence. now, study New conducted in Denmark reveals a previously unknown health benefit of owning a cat: children with a genetic predisposition to asthma who grew up with a cat at home showed less chance of developing the disease. These children also had less pneumonia and bronchitis.

The study included 377 children from Denmark whose mothers had asthma in the past. The researchers examined a certain region of the children's genome, and found in nearly a third of them a genetic variation that is known to be the main genetic risk factor for the disease. They checked which of the houses had a cat or a dog living in the house at the time the child was born, and also measured amounts of materials that indicate the presence of dogs and cats in the children's beds at the age of one. The researchers checked whether the children developed asthma by the age of 12. In addition, they checked whether and how many times the children between the ages of 0-3 got pneumonia and bronchitis, two diseases of the respiratory tract that are also related to the same genetic variation.

As mentioned, the researchers found that among the children with a genetic predisposition to asthma, those who grew up with a cat for at least their first year of life had a lower chance of developing asthma, and they had less pneumonia and bronchitis. The presence of a dog in the home was also found to be associated with a lower chance of developing asthma, although not to the same extent. In children who were not found to have the dangerous genetic variation, the presence of the cat did not affect the chances of contracting diseases one way or the other.

כ-300 one million man Throughout the world suffer from asthma, and an estimated 250 people die from the disease every year. It is the most common chronic disorder among children. During an asthma attack, viscous mucus that is secreted from the walls of the trachea blocks it and makes it difficult to get air out of the lungs. Asthma patients may suffer from, among other things, shortness of breath, wheezing while breathing, chronic cough and sputum. In Israel, 5.3 percent of men and 6.3 percent of women suffer from asthma. The rate is particularly high in men in the younger age group (21-34 years old), and lower in the older age groups.

The causes of asthma are still not fully understood. "There is a genetic component to asthma, but there is scientific evidence that it is a disease that has very strong environmental effects," says Dr. Hagai Levin, head of the health and environment track at the Hadassah School of Public Health and the Hebrew University. The known environmental causes of asthma include exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution, certain chemicals, and certain allergens. "We are seeing an increase in the incidence of asthma, and it is due to environmental changes," notes Levin.

Indeed, it is now known that children who are exposed to passive smoking have a much more pronounced tendency to develop asthma than children who are not exposed to it. This is a factor that was not taken into account in the Danish study, since the researchers did not examine exposure of the tested children to passive smoking, but only examined whether the mothers smoked during pregnancy.

Prescription for a cat

The main questions that the research does not provide answers to are how the presence of the cats lowers the risk of asthma, and why the effect of their presence is stronger than the presence of dogs. One hypothesis of the researchers is that cats spread certain bacteria, viruses or fungi in the house that have a positive effect on the human immune system. Of course, it must be remembered that the relationship found in the study is not necessarily causal, that is, even if living in a cat partition and the reduced risk of asthma are related to each other, the former is not necessarily the direct and exclusive cause of the latter.

The research findings are particularly interesting because they connect to the innovative and complex issue of genetics - environment interaction. Today it is already quite clear that our genes affect various components of who we are, starting with appearance, health status and ending with certain personality variables. At the same time, it is also clear that our environment influences us greatly. For any trait, the question arises as to how much genetics influence it - and how much the environment. However, many times the effect is more complex than that, and one factor (genetics or environment) affects how the other variable affects the trait. In the case of the new study, the genetic variation itself is known to increase the risk of asthma. However, the environmental variable, i.e. the presence of a cat or female cat in the home, affects the way in which the genetic variable affects the disease - and the result is a decrease in the risk of asthma. "The study highlights the need for more studies on genetics-environment interactions and their impact on human health," says Levin. "It's not easy at all, but the genetic effects, the environmental effects, and the interaction between them need to be investigated more at once. It's a holistic, broad view."

Levin mentions that despite the great influence that genetics has on our health, it is very difficult to change it. "Environmental changes, on the other hand, are in our hands," he says. "We should focus on the environmental interventions because that is where we can bring about the change. There may be children who would have a very warm recommendation to have a cat at home, and that would be the recommended treatment."

take comfort in furry company

The current study is not the first to suggest that cats are good for our health. Living with a cat (and sometimes with a dog or other pet) was found to be associated with a lower chance לattack heart and to diseases heart And tools blood (including stroke), and they Take off You pressure the blood and you ratethe heart. They were also found to be associated with a lower chance ofMorbidity in certain types of cancer. Cats eliminate pests, including those that transmit serious diseases. Cats and dogs provide companionship and support to people, whether they are people who suffer from loneliness or simply people who enjoy the solace of furry company. "Living with an animal has possible effects on both the health and the mental state," concludes Levin. "The cats do not only have a direct physical effect, by changing the domestic ecological environment through actions such as hunting mice, but also socially on the fabric of relationships at home."

2 תגובות

  1. My son grew up with a cat and has asthma. Most of the research today is not worth much because the answer is already prepared in advance. What did need to be checked was residential areas, floor height, genetic background and general lifestyle. So you would get different results.

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