The researchers say they've known that environmental and genetic factors can be involved in IBD, but the study demonstrates the importance of early life experiences. "Our findings show that children, particularly those under the age of 10, experience a protective effect against IBD if they live in a rural household," researcher Dr. Eric Benchimol said in a press release. "This effect is particularly strong in children who are raised in a rural household in the first five years of life," when their intestinal bacteria are being established. "The number of very young children being diagnosed with IBD has jumped in the past 20 years. The findings also strengthen our understanding that environmental risk factors that predispose people to IBD may have a stronger effect in children than adults."
The study was conducted by researchers at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Institute for Clinical Evaluation Sciences, and the Canadian Gastro-Intestinal Epidemiology Consortium and was published in the July 25 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Canada has one of the highest rates of IBD.