Would You Rather Have Lice or Eat Yogurt?

Research on mice shows that those carrying the most lice had calmer immune systems than uninfested rodents, and they [the researchers, not the mice!] said their finding may have implications for studying the causes of asthma and allergies in people.

From Reuters. The research paper. The data analysis is much better than usual. Among its strengths are: 1. Graphs of main points. 2. Transformation of variables. 3. Principal components analysis.

This study is more evidence that a high level of foreign substances in our body to which the immune system responds is beneficial. The researchers say nothing about fermented foods, which are an easy and easy-to-control way to ingest such substances. It’s hard to vary your dose of lice but easy to vary how much yogurt you eat.

Thanks to Oskar Pearson.

4 Replies to “Would You Rather Have Lice or Eat Yogurt?”

  1. I keep getting this strong sense that there is a connection here between fasting/low-carb diets and consuming fermented foods/exposure to foreign substances: all three of these approaches seem to put our bodies into a state of readiness or alert or perhaps “defense mode” the impact of which is exhibited in any number of improved health markers. With regard to fasting, From your blog post on meal skipping and the Mattson/Johnson/Laub work (2006):

    Since May 2003 we have experimented with alternate day calorie restriction, one day consuming 20-50% of estimated daily caloric requirement and the next day ad lib eating, and have observed health benefits starting in as little as 2 weeks, including insulin resistance, asthma, seasonal allergies, infectious diseases of viral, bacterial and fungal origin (viral URI, recurrent bacterial tonsillitis, chronic sinusitis, periodontal disease), autoimmune disorder (rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, symptoms due to CNS inflammatory lesions (Tourette’s, Meniere’s) cardiac arrhythmias (PVCs, atrial fibrillation), menopause related hot flashes. We hypothesize that other many conditions would be delayed, prevented or improved, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, brain injury due to thrombotic stroke atherosclerosis, NIDDM, congestive heart failure.

    The low-carb connection is that the metabolic pathways while fasted are (apparently) the same as when on a low-carb diet.

  2. I hate to nit pick, but at some point wouldn’t the open sores from the scratching the louse bites outweigh any advantage to the immune system?

  3. Gold star for David! A similar idea brings us to Reiter’s Syndrome, or “reactive arthritis”, which has untreated STI’s as a possible cause.

    There are examples in biology of organisms that have been appropriated by our bodies: mitochondria might be from ancient prokaryotes, and surely much of the flora in our gut is useful.

  4. Actually, I just wanted to fit the words “nit pick” into my reply and that lousy point was the best I could do. The only reason I’m posting this reply is because I forgot to work “lousy” into the previous one.

    Btw., getting rid of hair lice is damned hard (my daughter came home from school with them last year). I assume that for most of human history people spent a lot of time hosting lice. Up until my daughter got them I had used the words “nit pick” with no appreciation for what that really entailed. The way we use “nit pick” is backwards in that it implies excessive criticism. If someone really does go to the effort of picking nits for you, you would really appreciate what they’re doing on your behalf.

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