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Are Amish children the healthiest in the world?



Claims

Amish children are the healthiest in the world because they are unvaccinated and do not suffer from chronic diseases (here).

Verdict

It is not true. There have not been any new studies supporting these claims. Experts studying Amish communities assert that a significant portion of Amish people are to some extent vaccinated, and studies show high COVID-19 mortality rates. According to these experts, studies also reveal occurrences of autism, diabetes, and cancer within Amish communities, though these are comparatively less frequent than in the general American population. What is important, these differences have nothing to do with vaccination.

Lie Detector’s Commentary

The Amish are a very conservative Christian community that rejects all modern inventions, such as electricity and electrical appliances. They have settlements across several states of the USA.

Fake news is being spread about a supposed new study whose authors claim that Amish children do not suffer from chronic illnesses. According to them, this should change America’s attitude towards vaccination. „The Amish people, who reject modern medicine and pharmaceutical drugs available to the rest of America, are officially the healthiest people in the country. What makes them so and what can we learn from it? […] A study by the Vaccine Safety Research Foundation (VSRF) found that Amish communities have an incredible 90 times lower COVID death rate compared to the rest of the fully vaccinated, mask-wearing, and closed America,“ one article in Lithuanian reads.

However, no recent study supports such claims. In the mentioned article the testimony of Steven Kirsch, a well-known US businessman and anti-vaccine activist, before the Pennsylvania Senate is misrepresented as a study. Kirsch claimed to have spoken to local Amish people, who allegedly reported only five deaths from COVID-19 in their community, so he independently calculated that „the mortality rate for COVID-19 in Amish communities is 90 times lower“ than elsewhere in America. In the same testimony, he also asserted without giving any evidence, that Amish children do not suffer from conditions like diabetes, autism, cancer, or autoimmune diseases.

The businessman’s false claims have been widely criticised by academic community, noting that Kirsch did not conduct any formal investigation. Kirsch himself admitted this fact. Experts who denounced the businessman’s false claims referenced studies involving a total of more than 360, 000 Amish people across more than 30 states.

A 2011 study titled „Underimmunization in Ohio’s Amish: Parental Fears Are a Greater Obstacle Than Access to Care“ found that only 14% of Amish families do not vaccinate their children.

Alan Shuldiner, the founder of the University of Maryland’s Amish Research Clinic, debunked claims that Amish children do not get diabetes. Shuldiner, referring to the 2013 study „Comparison of BMI and physical activity between old order Amish children and non-Amish children“, he and his colleagues published in the journal „Diabetes“, explained that Amish children are indeed slightly less likely to develop diabetes, but not because they are not vaccinated, but because they lead physically active lifestyle, which reduces risk of being overweight or even obese. Unhealthy weight is the key risk factor in diabetes.

Braxton Mitchell, an epidemiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who has also studied Amish communities, refuted claims that Amish children, contrary to what the publications say, are immune to autism. The researcher adds that collecting reliable data on the subject is quite challenging as autism and other related conditions require clinical assessment and expert diagnosis, which Amish families often decline.

Indeed, a 2010 paper by the International Society for Autism Research found that the prevalence of autism in Amish communities was lower than in the rest of the US, but indicated that further research was needed into the reasons behind this disparity.

Recent research also suggests that Amish communities have not been completely immune to COVID-19, according to Steven Nolt, an Amish expert from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. A study published in June in the Journal of Religion and Health found higher mortality rates among Amish communities, even as overall deaths in America were declining.

SOURCES:

Underimmunization in Ohio’s Amish: Parental Fears Are a Greater Obstacle Than Access to Care

Comparison of BMI and physical activity between old order Amish children and non-Amish children

Pathways to Immunity: Patterns of Excess Death Across the United States and Within Closed Religious Communities

Prevalence Rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders Among the Old Order Amish

No, Amish kids aren’t immune to cancer, diabetes and autism — and they aren’t vaccine-free, either

Religious freedom vs. ’gray water.’ AP explains ruling favoring Amish families who shun septic tanks

Claim that the Amish are healthier because they opt out of all vaccines is incorrect

„Zero Amish children diagnosed with cancer, diabetes or autism.“

Anti-vaccine myth that Amish children don’t have autism resurfaces

Steve Kirsch

Amish Girl, 10, Won’t Be Forced to Have Chemo, Judge Rules