A recent small scale study in Finland found that the diversity of microbes in the guts and on the skin of young children appeared healthier in a very short space of time after they were exposed to green spaces with forest flora.
When compared to children from urban daycare environments the children in the “greened up” school showed increased T-cells and other immune markers in their blood within 28 days.
At the Story Forest, we have long held the view that outdoor learning has major benefits for children not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. We are pleased that academic research has now begun to clarify how this works and how beneficial an outdoor education in a biodiverse environment really is for child health.
We also found that the intestinal microbiota of children who received greenery was similar to the intestinal microbiota of children visiting the forest every day,” says environmental scientist Marja Roslund from the University of Helsinki. Marja Roslund
Abstract from the study
As the incidence of immune-mediated diseases has increased rapidly in developed societies, there is an unmet need for novel prophylactic practices to fight against these maladies. This study is the first human intervention trial in which urban environmental biodiversity was manipulated to examine its effects on the commensal microbiome and immunoregulation in children. We analyzed changes in the skin and gut microbiota and blood immune markers of children during a 28-day biodiversity intervention. Children in standard urban and nature-oriented daycare centers were analyzed for comparison. The intervention diversified both the environmental and skin Gammaproteobacterial communities, which, in turn, were associated with increases in plasma TGF-β1 levels and the proportion of regulatory T cells. The plasma IL-10:IL-17A ratio increased among intervention children during the trial. Our findings suggest that biodiversity intervention enhances immunoregulatory pathways and provide an incentive for future prophylactic approaches to reduce the risk of immune-mediated diseases in urban societies.
We are grateful that serious research is being done in this area and congratulate the team at the University of Helsinki for their findings which we hope will enable a new generation of healthy children to be educated.
Here is a link to the study for your further information: