A team of researchers from the Karolinska Instiutet in Sweden analysed data from the ALADDIN birth cohort study of 300 children from families with an ‘anthroposophic’ attitude to life - that is, those that opt for a natural way of life, without vaccinations and restricted use medicines - and a ‘non-anthroposophic lifestyle’.
As part of the study, children and their parents were interviewed and samples taken, including saliva samples to measure the level of the stress hormone cortisol in babies at six months of age.
The findings revealed that the babies with low concentrations of the cortisol in their saliva developed fewer allergies than children with high levels of the stress hormone during their first two years of life.
Most commonly, it was the babies from ‘anthroposophic’ families that had lower levels of cortisol and were therefore less likely to develop allergies.
According to the researchers, the incidence of allergies in children has increased over the past few decades, especially in the West, with 30 to 40 per cent of children in Sweden having some form of allergy.
A combination of environmental and lifestyle factors during pregnancy and early childhood have thought to be responsible for the sharp rise in allergic diseases up until now.
The Karolinska Institutet will now monitor the development of allergies with babies from birth to childhood.
The study, Salivary cortisol levels and allergy in children: The ALADDIN birth cohort, is published in the December issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.