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In 2006, the PARSIFAL multicenter study[1] (Prevention of Allergy—Risk Factors for Sensitization Related to Farming and Anthroposophic Lifestyle) was conducted, and is the largest and most coherent study conducted among Steiner school children to date, covering five European countries, and the diversity of the anthroposophic lifestyle between the countries. The main objectives of the PARSIFAL study were 1) to investigate whether differences in atopic disease prevalences between farm children or children from anthroposophic families and respective references, as observed previously, could be confirmed in a large population of children from 5 European countries and 2) to explore factors which might explain the lower prevalence of atopic diseases in these children.[2]

Families following an "anthroposophic lifestyle" were defined as those who use antibiotics restrictively, have few vaccinations, and their diet usually contains live lactobacilli, which may affect the intestinal microflora. "Anthroposophical doctors restrict the use of antibiotics, antipyretics, and vaccinations. Most children are vaccinated only against tetanus and polio, and most vaccinations are given later than recommended by the Swedish health authorities. As a result, in Sweden, measles occurs primarily in anthroposophic families. They also consume mostly local foods produced according to biodynamic principles. Vegetables preserved by spontaneous fermentation are a common dietary element, even for small children."[3]

The study was carried out on the response to questionnaires for 6,630 children (of these, 4,606 were Steiner school children and 2,024 reference children) and blood samples for 28% of all included children. Allergen-specific IgE antibody levels were measured against a mixture of common inhalant and food allergens. Antibiotics and antipyretics were used less often in the Steiner school children, whereas a diet mainly based on biodynamic food was found almost exclusively in the Steiner school children group. MMR vaccination was about three times less common than in the reference group, and the prevalence of measles infection was three times greater than in the reference group. In addition to the findings of the earlier Lancet paper,[3] the PARSIFAL study reported lower incidence of rhinoconjunctivitis (a combination of rhinitis and conjunctivitis) and atopic sensitization. Focusing on doctor-diagnosed disease, the use of antibiotics during the first year of life was associated with increased risks of rhinoconjunctivitis, asthma and atopic eczema. Early use of antipyretics was related to an increased risk of asthma and atopic eczema. Children having received MMR vaccination showed an increased risk of rhinoconjunctivitis, whereas measles infection was associated with a lower risk of eczema related to IgE antibodies.

The authors concluded that "certain features of the anthroposophic lifestyle, such as restrictive use of antibiotics and antipyretics, are associated with a reduced risk of allergic disease in children."[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Flöistrup, H., Swartz, J., Bergström, A., Alm, J. S., Scheynius, A., et al. (2006). Allergic disease and sensitization in Steiner school children. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 117(1), 59-66. PMID 16387585 Reprint copy
  2. Hendrikje Everdina Schram-Bijkerk (2006). Microbial agents, allergens and atopic diseases - contributions to the PARSIFAL study, Ph.D. dissertation, Universiteit Utrecht, Netherlands. Dissertation abstract and text
  3. 3.0 3.1 Alm, J. S., Swartz, J., Lilja, G., Scheynius, A., and Pershagen, G. (1999). Atopy in children of families with an anthroposophic lifestyle. Lancet, 353(9163), 1485-8. PMID 10232315 Reprint copy

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