Raising A Child? It Has A Huge Effect On Your Immune System

First Posted: Feb 16, 2016 12:29 AM EST

You might be surprised to learn that raising a child with a significant other may have a greater effect on your immune system than the seasonal flu vaccine or traveler's gastroenteritis, according to a recent study.

Researchers at VIB and KU Leuven in Belgium and the Babraham Institute in the United Kingdom thoroughly researched the immune systems of 670 people who ranged in age from 2-86 years old to better understand what drives immune system variation between individuals. Even after analyzing a wide-range of factors, including age, gender, and weight, researchers found that a very critical factor was whether or not individuals co-parented a child. For those who co-parented a child, findings showed these individuals had a 50 percent reduction in the variation between their two immune systems when compared to counterparts.

Participants in the study were followed over three years--showing that their immune systems remained stable regardless of triggers such as gastroenteritis, etc; according to the study authors, this demonstrates the incredible potential of our immune system's ability to bounce back to its original state.

"Our research shows that we all have a stable immune landscape which is robustly maintained. What is different between individuals is what our individual immune systems look like," Dr Michelle Linterman, a researcher at the Babraham Institute and co-leader of the study, in a news release. "We know that only a small part of this is due to genetics. Our study has shown that age is a major influence on what our immune landscapes look like, which is probably one of the reasons why there is a declining response to vaccination and reduced resistance to infection in older persons."

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