Dan Olmsted: The Amish All Over Again
By Dan Olmsted
Back in the early days of USA Today 30 years ago, the paper’s founder, Al Neuharth, roamed the newsroom, micromanaging and demanding impossibly high standards. That was not necessarily a bad thing – the paper was his baby and he knew what he wanted – but it produced some classic moments. In one case, he rejected headline after headline on a particular story – as it was told to me, 24 times -- until the frustrated editor once again handed him the first headline that he had by now forgotten.
“Finally!” Neuharth exclaimed.
I’m about at that point when it comes to the Amish and their amazingly good health. There’s been story after story reporting the relative absence of Alzheimer’s, allergies, asthma – you know, the big chronic disorders that plague the people who live around them, namely the rest of us. Not to mention -- not ever -- the lack of autism.
Autism aside, the medical and media establishments still manage to evade the logical implications – something is protecting the overall health of this insular community whose rejection of many contemporary norms is legendary. You would think they would want to find out what that something is and try to clone it, stat, especially as the same disorders and diseases hit epidemic rates outside the Amish world and these same “experts” express complete bafflement about what’s going on.
A letter to the editor of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, dated March 16, 2012 and published in the most recent edition online, is the latest to make this point. The six authors, scientists from Indiana, Germany, and Switzerland, state: “The prevalence of allergic sensitization has increased in most developed counties over the past century. In the United States, the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found 54.3% of the study population to have evidence of allergic sensitization.”
But not so among the 25,000 Amish in Indiana, who “live primarily an agrarian lifestyle. Many families live on working farms. All Amish families have horses that are used for transportation. A significant percentage drinks raw milk. They do not use electricity in their homes. They have large families.”
And they have very little allergy – among children ages 6 to 12 years, the percentage showing evidence of allergic sensitization was a mere 7.2 percent. This was far lower than two comparison groups; children in Switzerland who lived on farms had a still-low 25.2 percent, and Swiss non-farm children 44.2 percent, approaching international averages.
What gives? Well, “although we have not determined specific mechanisms, this study continues to support the effect of early farm exposures and their impact in significantly reducing the prevalence of asthma and allergic sensitization.” Those “exposures” might include raw milk, lots of siblings and farm animals – the usual constituents of the hygiene hypothesis that posits rolling around in lots of germs will keep you from getting allergies.
Well, maybe. Raw milk is a controversial issue right now, with the feds fighting it and lots of natural-health folks believing it is much healthier. But c’mon, people! What about non-exposures, like non-exposure to the full-throttle 2012 CDC-recommended, state-mandated vaccination schedule starting with mercury-containing flu shots in utero and Hep B at birth. What percentage of these Amish were non-exposed to that schedule compared to the average suburban family?
And we already know that vaccines can trigger asthma, the king of allergies. As my colleague Mark Blaxill has reported, “If you look at the totality of the published evidence the picture is admittedly somewhat mixed, but for anyone with an open mind and a critical eye, the argument for a strong role for vaccines as a cause of asthma is persuasive.” Even delaying the DPT shot by a couple of months cuts the rate of asthma by more than double.
I’m not sure we’ll find out from these authors, whose stated conflicts include consulting for Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, ProtectImmun and InfectoPharm. (InfectoPharm? You cannot be serious. Sounds like the villain in a dystopian novel a friend of mine is writing.)
We get this all the time. Astonishing health outcomes in the Amish are trumpeted, with pretty feeble efforts to figure out why. In 2008, I interviewed Margaret Pericak-Vance, an autism gene researcher, who has also studied dementia in an Amish group and reported in a 1996 study that it is less common than in the outside Caucasian population. As I reported then: “She found they also have a lower incidence of a gene called APO-E4. That gene is associated with Alzheimer's disease; in fact, ‘it's the one risk factor that's been confirmed in thousands of studies worldwide,’ Pericak-Vance said. Her deduction: Because the Amish she studied have less APO-E4, they have a lower incidence of dementia; her findings have been ‘just recently confirmed in some updated data we have with the Amish population.’"
OK, so now we have genes, lots of siblings, maybe raw milk, hanging around farm animals as possible factors in less allergy and Alzheimer’s in the Amish. Put a cow in your living room and some Amish genes in your DNA and some raw milk in your Sanka and all manner of things shall be well.
Or maybe not. There’s still that pesky autism problem. You would think, given how easy it was for mainstream researchers to establish the rate of allergy and Alzheimer’s among the Amish – low, very low – we could at least figure out what the autism rate is. A ballpark figure? An order of magnitude?
Nope. It’s all so very, very complicated. (Just ask Julie Gerberding.) Skeptic-style bloggers with no expertise and lots of faux gravitas have tried to establish that there is beaucoup de l’autisme avec les Amish. One such attempt blew up rather badly because the doctor quoted, at the Clinic for Special Children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said the only cases he had seen were in children who were born with frank genetic disorders. That is not the kind of autism currently causing a thoroughly justified national panic – the “idiopathic” autism, as this doctor put it, that occurs in children with no known vulnerabilities. (And the Clinic specializes in vaccinating the bejesus out of genetically vulnerable children. The only case of "idiopathic autism" I found among the Amish was taken from her home by child services and vaccinated by the clinic. She returned home fully autistic. See her photo in our book. Draw your own conclusions.)
There was a fragment of a part of an ongoing study presented at IMFAR a couple of years ago in Philadelphia – I took the train over there to see for myself – that at least so far is pretty thin gruel for the you-betcha-the-Amish-are-loaded-up-with-Autism crowd. Of nine cases identified so far, three were from the same family and all had dysmorphic features similar to the father's that, the researchers acknowledged to me, suggested a genetic problem (not infrequent among the Amish due to their closed gene pool). A health professional I brought over to look at the poster presentation thought this family had signs of something called Menkes disease, an X-linked neurodegenerative disorder of impaired copper transport. Not too idiopathic in my book. (And a noted autism researcher told me he believes he has encountered this family at a conference, and that the mother reported all three regressed after the MMR. Two unvaccinated children were not affected.)
I wanted to interview the main author at IMFAR, who was standing with the poster of the fragment of the part of the ongoing study, but when I pulled out my tape recorder he demurred. The study wasn’t ready (although already widely cited). And vaccines? Anything about vaccines? They were going to get to that as part of the final report, he said.
Meanwhile even the most adamant vaccine defenders can’t get away from the glaring lack of full-syndrome, idiopathic, whatever-you-want to call it autism of the kind that’s ripping childhood apart in the rest of the country.
Max Wiznitzer (you can practically hear the hisses from AOA readers oozing out of your laptop) is a prime witness. Wiznitzer, of University Hospitals in Cleveland, was an expert witness for the government against the families who filed in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
But on CNN’s Larry King in 2009, Wiznitzer said the rate of autism in northeastern Ohio, the nation’s largest Amish community, was 1 in 10,000. He should know, he said: “I’m their neurologist.” Dr. Wiznitzer also said those Amish were vaccinated.
Back in 2005, I reported on a doctor with even closer connections to the Amish community who said the autism rate was very low: Of 15,000 Amish who live near Middlefield, Dr. Heng Wang was aware of just one who has autism. Wang was the medical director, and a physician and researcher, at the DDC Clinic for Special Needs Children, created specifically to treat the Amish in northeastern Ohio.
“I take care of all the children with special needs,” he said, putting him in a unique position to observe autism. The one case Wang had identified is a 12-year-old boy.
But unlike Wiznitzer – and four years earlier -- he said half the children in the area were vaccinated, half were not. The child with autism, he said, was vaccinated.
I first raised this issue -- fewer vaccine, less autism -- seven years ago this spring, when I wrote an article titled The Amish Anomaly that began, “Where are the autistic Amish? Here in Lancaster County, heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, there should be well over 100 with some form of the disorder.
“I have come here to find them, but so far my mission has failed, and the very few I have identified raise some very interesting questions about some widely held views on autism.”
With the new allergy report and its implication for the low rate of autoimmune diseases among the Amish, aren't we right back where we started? As Al Neuharth would say: “Finally!”
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
I had heard that there was no case of autism found among a large Amish community I got familiar with in Montgomery, IN. I posted the statement on a Facebook site that is against vaccines. Someone then posted the '1 in 100,000' statistic. Reading this article explains that number- as the person in the small percentage had been vaccinated. I had my kids years back before all this info came out. Fortunately they didn't get autism, but how do I kno that other conditions didn't attribute to the vaccinations? My youngest has to take several meds for anger, anxiety and bi polar disorder. Another daughter is highly allergic to massive quantities of both environmental and food elements. These two are asthmatic, as well.
Posted by: Linda Friedman | February 02, 2015 at 11:15 AM
I think one thing stands out very clearly as to be a potential cause for many disease states experienced by mainstream populations that are absent or very low in Amish communities and that is EMR (Electromagnetic Radiation). Electrification of our environment through electrical power, powered devices, high voltage power lines, transformers, WiFi, 3G/4G, mobile/cordless phones, dirty electricity etc. It should come as no surprise that effects of EMR from ELF frequencies (50/60Hz) all the way up to ultra high frequencies used by wireless communication devices (mobile phones, WiFi, smart meters) have been linked by independent researchers to neurological and immunological disorders. EMF's are possibly both cancer initiators and promoters and are classified as a Group 2B carcinogen by the IARC.
Posted by: Steve | September 30, 2014 at 03:29 AM
That is why God gave us a immune system to fight off diseases,eating properly to keep it in full working order is the only way to stay healthy,these vaccines are money makers for the drug companies at our expense and many fall for their propaganda !!!!!!
Posted by: Sal DiGiorgi | September 22, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Do the Amish have any genetic disorders? What is the mortality rate of children?
Posted by: michelle | September 03, 2013 at 02:27 PM
While studying Public Health at University of South Florida ten years ago, I came across journal article after journal article showing how petroleum based compounds can cause autoimmune disorders. Petroleum chemicals are used to make carpeting, pesticides, plastics, artificial colors, artificial flavors, fragrances, fabric softeners, etc. Autoimmune diseases occur when various types of immune system genes malfunction, thereby creating inferior immune system cells that attack our own tissues, organs, etc. On top of this, it has recently been found that our "thymus" (located behind the breast bone) works as a "filter" to remove this malfunctioning autoimmune cells. Autoimmune reactions have now been found to be involved with causing or worsening dozens of diseases from arthritis to Alzheimers. Isn't it interesting (obvious I think is a better word), how these diseases have exploded after the industrial revolution in the 1940's and how the Amish (who have minimal petroleum exposure) don't have these diseases.
Posted by: Richard Pressinger | May 27, 2013 at 11:55 AM
Dan, what are the chances of getting a 2013 statistic of Autism and Allergies amongst the Amish.
Thank you and keep up the good work
Posted by: D Emrys | May 12, 2013 at 02:03 AM
I'm curious to know if the Amish get type 1 diabetes since there have been studies that show it being linked to milk consumption. Wonder if raw milk is different from pasteurized milk in this aspect. I have read that many women with breast cancer cured their cancer just by switching from pasteurized milk to raw milk.
I'm sure type 2 diabetes is probably almost non existent too since it's caused by lack of exercise and a refined carbohydrate diet.
I know their cancer rates are about 40% lower, I think if they understood/followed an alkaline (more fruit and vegetables and less animal product, sugar and flour) type diet the rates could be close to zero similar to the Hunza and other cultures that are disease and cancer free.
The Longevity Diet: Secrets to living a healthy and long-lasting life
I think the Amish are doing everything else right, I think it's just their diets that could get some of them into trouble. Animal product(beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, milk) consumption has to be kept low for good health if you look at the Hunza and others.
It's hard to find any stats on the Amish health, it's almost like this stuff is being hidden?
Posted by: Roger | February 17, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Great article. I actually just searched for information on autism and the Amish because I was watching More of the Business of Being Born Episode 1 on Netflix, in which renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin is interviewed. While not specifically citing vaccinations, she does comment on the lack of medical interventions during pregnancy and birth in the Amish community and in her own natural midwifery practice on The Farm in Tennessee. In both populations, the autism rate is next to zero in her 40 plus years of experience. She suggests that the "cocktail" of medications the fetus/baby receives during labor and just after birth, in addition to the over-exposure of ultrasound waves be studied as possible culprits for conditions like autism and ADD/ADHD, both of which have risen in prevalence in the last 20 years as multiple ultrasounds and medical interventions like induction followed by strong pain-killing drugs have become routine.
Posted by: Elizabeth | January 06, 2013 at 01:02 AM
Technology causes autism. Too much tv, computer etc at a young age. Amish dont have to worry about that.
Posted by: cisco | January 02, 2013 at 02:29 PM
What do the Amish do for dental? What amount have dental fillings containing amalgum (mercury)? --- what link to those suspected (or confirmed) to have autism?
Posted by: Mumster | December 04, 2012 at 08:18 AM
As far as I know, the Amish also give birth naturally at home and do not use pre-natal ultrasound. There are studies being conducted now linking autism and ultrasound.
Posted by: Mimi | September 26, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Interesting article, the more research I do, the more I think I will get my kids zero vaccinations. I have a 27 month old and a 3 month old, neither have had any shots at all. I had to argue with a pediatrician 30 minutes after I gave birth with my first son about the vitamin K and Hep B shots, I can see how less informed people would give in. It's ridiculous how big medicine runs things. I try to feed my kids healthy food and not fill them full of chicken nuggets and fries, hopefully they won't catch any horrible diseases along the way...
Posted by: Melinda | August 16, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Amish people don't really follow vaccine schedules like most people do; nor do they have artificial preservatives in food, or radioactive technology, so I think those are big reasons why autism/psychiatric disorders don't really affect them.
Posted by: dud | August 02, 2012 at 06:10 PM
I've suspected that vaccines were a cause of allergies and food intolerance, after I read the book "Food Intolerance Bible".
Posted by: Ummer F | June 10, 2012 at 11:11 PM
About boycotting all vaccines . Yes of course that is the answer . But how can you get young mothers to stop and question these demi-god Doctors (who are just robots in my opinion - they are complete idiots 99%) .
New mothers are in such total awe of medicine , they dont cross check anything for themselves . They arent thinking for themselves , theysimply allow themselves to be manipulated by scare mongering nonsense language . The older generations , the grand parents , arent adding too much value either . Everyone is so compliant .Its so tragic . Makes me so angry . Our leaders are not worthy of our trust .
Posted by: Fiona Godless | May 14, 2012 at 10:51 AM
No Vaccines No Autism
http://homefirst.com/ "We have a fairly large practice. We have about 30,000 or 35,000 children that we've taken care of over the years, and I don't think we have a single case of autism in children delivered by us who never received vaccines," said Dr. Mayer
Eisenstein, Homefirst's medical director who founded the practice in 1973. Homefirst doctors have delivered more than 15,000 babies at home, and thousands of them have never been vaccinated.
All Vaccines Cause Neurological Damage
http://homefirst.com/ I want to raise doubt in your mind as to the safety, efficacy and moral issues of vaccines. My goal is for you to do further research into all of the vaccines, use libraries, bookstores, our internet web site (homefirst.com) and ask questions. Only after fully weighing the evidence can you make an informed decision. An informed consumer is a wise consumer. This journey is a beginning of better understanding the issues surrounding childhood vaccinations.
Posted by: AutismGrandma | May 13, 2012 at 03:55 PM
"idiopathic" was a new word for me. Now whenever I see it, I'll just substitute the word "iatrogenic".
Posted by: Mike Baker | May 13, 2012 at 02:02 AM
The authors of the study are "going to get to" vaccines in their final report? That's how I talk about problems in my life I just want to go away.
Posted by: Carol | May 12, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Amen to that. We should just call them what they are Poison Cocktails. "Did take your baby in for there bi-monthly poisoning ?" No. Well why not?
Posted by: Adam M | May 12, 2012 at 05:29 PM
With you on all that Benedetta, totally in the moment. PCP. Present, connected and protected,...without vaccines
Posted by: Angus Files | May 12, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Current vaccination rates aren't the only thing relevant. The damage from vaccines is epigenetic as well. You have to observe the vaccination rates from more than one generation.
Why waste more time studying that? Even if it does contribute to a persons risk of being vaccine injured, the point is irrelevant if vaccines are just avoided altogether.
That is the quickest, easiest, and safest way to stop this epidemic in its tracks. And in the process, expose the vaccine propaganda for what it has always been
Posted by: Barry | May 12, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Kapore is right!
Here we all are studying the wonders of camel milk, thinking about maybe we should be drinking raw milk - who cares about TB at this point, and - I am feeding my family cream but and no milk at all as in Ketogenic diet - Not only that but I raise all kinds of berries trying cut down on the grocery bill -- since we eat a lot of berries because they are low - or at least slow release carbs. WHY are we doing this?- because the krebs cycle that processes carbs into glusose has been damaged, and all we have left is fat into the ketones for energy.
It is not white flour, or corn syrup to begin with - but it sure is after the vaccines-- then we have to start looking for the better fuel to run our families bodies.
AND STEVE is right too. It takes a couple or three generations of vaccinating to arouse the immune system in each generation getting worse and worse untill we have regresstion into autism after a vaccine -- and now some are being born that way. So if the Amish is just now starting to vaccinate - it may take them a while to catch up-- the 1/2 and 1/2 there!
Posted by: Benedetta | May 12, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Current vaccination rates aren't the only thing relevant. The damage from vaccines is epigenetic as well. You have to observe the vaccination rates from more than one generation.
Posted by: Steve | May 12, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Dr. Theoharides was the first to show that mast cells can be stimulated by non-allergic triggers to secrete inflammatory mediators, selectively leading to disruption of the gut-blood-brain barriers. Based on his discoveries, Dr. Theoharides proposed the novel concept that mast cells play a critical role in brain and gut inflammation and autism.
Furthermore that these inflamatory responses have a powerful trigger in components invariably found in all vaccines. Not surprisingly he is having difficulty getting funding for further research.
Posted by: Rick Alan | May 12, 2012 at 11:13 AM
It seems that research is circling the elephant in the living room. First it was autism that was unexplainable, now it is allergies, next will be the explosion of autoimmune disorders. Articles like this one are important because they point out the obvious missing piece, again and again, and yet again. Something we are doing is really messing up our children and it is a mainstream practice because those who somehow live outside that mainstream don't have the problem... hmm. I recently read (maybe here) that American Indians have less access to medical facilities (and what they have is pretty sketchy) and so "unfortunately" they have higher rates of measles. And did I read they also had less autism? I'm not sure but that would be another example of a profoundly stressed community that has horrendous health practices (living on farm surplus which consists of corn syrup and white bread), and still manage to escape what plagues of the "good care" of the mainstream.
Posted by: Kapoore | May 12, 2012 at 10:54 AM
An acquaintance of mine said that eight of his son's classmates went to the doctor for allergies last week. Eight! His son is in private school so his class isn't public-school huge.
Needless to say, we don't live in Amish country.
Posted by: Carol | May 12, 2012 at 10:07 AM
" Autism aside, the medical and media establishments still manage to evade the logical implications – something is protecting the overall health of this insular community whose rejection of many contemporary norms is legendary. You would think they would want to find out what that something is and try to clone it, stat, especially as the same disorders and diseases hit epidemic rates outside the Amish world and these same “experts” express complete bafflement about what’s going on."
Reminds me of Dr. Weston A. Price. This was exactly the genius of his investigation in nutrition and physical degeneration that resulted in the book by the same name. (A must read.) You don't look at unhealthy people to figure out how to be healthy. You go investigate what healthy people are doing and follow that to get well. He had the advantage of living at a time when you could still find indigenous people living on the traditional diet of their ancestors. No white flour. No white sugar. No manufactured foods. In some groups that kept dairy animals raw milk was a staple of the diet. The notion of raw milk, natures perfect food, that all mammals start out on, being dangerous is a red herring to distract us from the real problem. The modern dairy industry and its practices. You need milk the way nature gives it to us. Whole, raw with all its enzymes, proteins and probiotics intact and not damaged by heat from healthy cows raised on their natural diet in their natural environment. (BTW know whats high in glutathione? Raw milk.) http://www.westonaprice.org/blogs/cmasterjohn/2010/09/11/the-biochemical-magic-of-raw-milk-and-other-raw-foods-glutathione
Dr. Price didn't mention wether or not vaccines had made it to these groups but at that time even if they had there wouldn't have been many of them and not much need for them as these people weren't falling ill with the diseases of civilization.
"Life in all its fullness is mother nature obeyed" - Dr. Weston A. Price D.D.S.
Posted by: Adam M | May 12, 2012 at 09:57 AM
Dan asks: "But c’mon, people! What about non-exposures, like non-exposure to the full-throttle 2012 CDC-recommended, state-mandated vaccination schedule starting with mercury-containing flu shots in utero and Hep B at birth. What percentage of these Amish were non-exposed to that schedule compared to the average suburban family?
Maybe we should have Amish "elders" .. instead of CDC "experts" .. be responsible for protecting and caring for the health of the much larger U.S. "herd"?
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) proudly reports that TEN MILLION vaccines are given to children in the United States during their FIRST year of life.
The "infant mortality" rate of the U.S. is dismal compared to other developed countries .. where 6.33 per 1000 "live" births fail to reach their FIRST birthday.
Why should that be if the benefits of those TEN MILLION vaccines are as great as public health officials insist they are?
Posted by: Bob Moffitt | May 12, 2012 at 08:21 AM
To quote Yogi Berra, "de javu all over again."
Thanks Dan, from your post: “I (Wang) take care of all the children with special needs,” he said, putting him in a unique position to observe autism. The one case Wang had identified is a 12-year-old boy.
But unlike Wiznitzer – and four years earlier -- he (Wang)said half the children in the area were vaccinated, half were not. The child with autism, he said, was vaccinated."
By itself the quote from Wang completely confuses the vaccine-autism connection. What is necessary to clear up (though I realize this data was not available to you) is at WHAT AGE were the 7,500 kids vaccinated, exactly WHAT VACCINES were given, and the TOTAL NUMBER of injected vaccines.
Of course this critical info could be easily obtained but all of America's medical institutions are in the Vaccine-Dogma Tank with Pharma, CDC, NIH, etc.
Posted by: david burd | May 12, 2012 at 07:53 AM
Max Wiznitzer, is not telling the truth, he doesn't treat all the Amish in Ho;mes County, Ohio, in fact there are over 55 variations of Amish, very few vaccinate their children, most of them don't drive, and if they did, why would all of them make a 90 mile trip to Cleveland when they have doctors there and in the surrounding areas, some Amish also only see Chiropractors, as most are hesitant of modern medicine.
Posted by: Victor Pavlovic | May 12, 2012 at 07:51 AM
My link didn't work properly so here it is again.
Posted by: AussieMum | May 12, 2012 at 06:48 AM
Brilliant article Dan!
On the 10th May our Federal Government finally took some positive steps and cut "Immunisation Incentive" payments to doctors.
Of course the AMA (Australian Medical Association) is angry about the move and are concerned that immunisation rates may fall, given that doctors may no longer see the need to push vaccines.
Our Federal Government is also threatening to withdraw benefits to families who don't have their children fully vaccinated.
The threat is merely deceptive because you can obtain a "Conscientious Objection Form" (for those not wanting to vaccinate)get your doctor to sign the form and you are still entitled to the Family Tax Benefit.
It will be interesting to monitor (if doctors don't push vaccines)to see how many "Aussie Kids" will be diagnosed with Autism in about 3 years time.
Posted by: AussieMum | May 12, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Great Dan always good to see how the other half live/die… i think our full throttled vaccinated kids will be gone long before the Amish ,the Amish having lived a healthier life than us and our kids…all done because you believe in your Dr (long time ago and never again).
Posted by: Angus Files | May 12, 2012 at 06:02 AM