More nature to strengthen the microbiota?
Biodiversity and microbiota: a natural relationship! The first of its kind, a Finnish study has demonstrated the benefits of nature for young children’s skin and gut microbiota and immune system.
About this article
Asphalt, detergents, antibiotics, and processed foods are the flipside of modern society: the skin and gut microbiota that contribute to our health and immunity suffer the consequences. Under attack and poorly renewed due to insufficient contact with microbial diversity, these microbiota may go off-balance, which could explain today’s explosion in immune system diseases. What if all that’s needed to restore our microbiota is to replace the asphalt with nature? So suggests a Finnish study involving 75 toddlers aged 3 to 5. The study’s approach was original: the researchers integrated more green spaces into urban daycare centers (gravel covered with grass, forest floor, peat blocks for climbing, plants) in order to observe the effects of this microbe-rich environment.
Contact with nature boosts microbiota
The results were conclusive. After only 28 days of spending 90 minutes per day outdoors, the 36 Finnish children in the four ‘nature-boosted’ daycare centers saw their skin microbiota strengthened, with increased diversity and a greater abundance of certain beneficial bacteria. The change made their skin flora comparable to that of 23 other children who throughout the year attend daycare centers that bring them on daily trips to the forest. The same trend was observed in the gut: the microbiota of children in the nature-boosted centers saw rapid increases in the abundance of bacteria that produce beneficial fatty acids.
Immunity: the power of biodiversity!
Better still, the children’s immune systems evolved towards a less inflammatory profile. Everything thus seems to suggest that introducing nature into daycare centers is beneficial to toddlers’ immune systems: contact with microorganisms from the soil and plants builds their defenses in a balanced manner. We no longer have any reason to stop our children from digging in the earth or rolling around in the grass: it’s good for them!