Want the best shot at preventing asthma in your children? Danish scientists say you should get a cat.
A study of nearly 400 toddlers revealed that those growing up with a cat had a far lower likelihood of suffering from the inflammatory responses of asthma later in life.
Researchers believe this is because of a genetic variation that plays a significant role in triggering asthma, which is somehow switched off in the presence of a cat. Interestingly, the researchers suggest the same gene does not appear to be affected by the presence of dogs.
When activated, the variation of the TT gene doubles the risk of asthma and is also responsible for bronchitis and pneumonia. We all apparently need to grow up with cats from the time we are young. The results of the study reveal that cats remove the increased risk of developing asthma among children with a particular variation of the gene 17q21, called TT, which has the strongest impact on whether or not a child could develop asthma.
Almost one in three children in the Danish study carried the variant. Jakob Stokholm, who led the study at the Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood Research Center, said that the explanation could be related to bacteria that cats carry and perhaps fungi or viruses that they bring into the home.
It’s not only about genes and the environment. It’s also about how the two interact, which remains unclear.
Professor Hans Bisgaard said the study showed in unprecedented detail how the environment affects the behavior of genes, particularly in early life and during pregnancy.