Last week an article called “Genes and immune system shaped by childhood poverty & stress” was published in the Proceeding of the national academy of sciences which is very close to my heart. It was a very interesting article on the effect of childhood poverty and the imprints it has left on the gene also known as epigenetics.
Scientists are fast discovering the role between our evironment as well as our diet & lifestyle and the expression of our genes. We know that our behaviour can switch genes on or off but it never has been as clear as now that it does affect our genes for much longer than we initially thought. Researchers of this study report that these changes can occur even before birth and continue after.
The research team at British Columbia University in Canada discovered that childhood poverty but not socio-economic status as an adult was correlated to methylation pattern. The amount of stress hormones during adulthood also affects methylation patterns but whether this was due to marks left on the gene or whether the marks influenced the amount of stress hormones released is unclear.
The scientists also found that methylation patterns were predictive of immune responses later in life, meaning that early child hood poverty can impact health status in adult life.
I have learned before about the lasting effect that stressful events at a very young age can have on a childs brain development, but the evolution of epigenetics adds more to the shape that our next generation will be in in terms of health.
As the economic gap between the rich and the poor enlarges and our food security is threatened, each of us certainly has a role to play to ensure that the youngest and poorest have access to basic food,love,education and resources knowing that the impact will be beneficial and long-term.
What you can do to reduce child poverty today;
- Donate to charities especially those that focus on feeding children and educating children
- Volunteer on feeding programs either locally or internationally
- Refer any child you think is at risk to your local child protection agency
- Provide support and relief to single parents, children are all our responsibilities
- Discuss family planning and the impact of stress (of having a baby at a young age) on both parents and children at an early age.
- Donate food to food banks