Research shows how our childhood experiences can change our DNA

(Collective Evolution | Alana Ketler) In this day and age, many of us understand that our childhood experiences often define our adult years. Any trauma, abuse, or neglect we experience as children, we carry with us into adulthood, and with this emerging awareness, many people are taking the necessary steps to overcome and release their childhood baggage so they can step into the potential of who they were always meant to be.

Even if your your childhood was relatively pleasant and uneventful, the way you were raised still impacts who you have become, and while most parents realize this, they may not understand the full scope of their impact. Fortunately, this information is becoming more and more accessible and as people unravel their own paths, and let go of what no longer serves them, they are beginning to recognize that if given the right environment to flourish, children are capable of becoming anything they desire. This is a very powerful awareness to have, as it’s the children that will be the leaders of the new Earth.

Research shows childhood experiences can permanently change our DNA

This new research proves just how much our experiences as children affect our adult lives. Our DNA is the genetic material that determines much of who we are, including our physical characteristics and parts of our personality. It can also determine our health, as some diseases have a very strong hereditary aspect, like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s Disease, some cancers, and diabetes.

Yet scientists are now discovering that DNA isn’t always as rigid as we once thought, and we do have the capability to change our DNA. A team of researchers from Northwestern University, led by anthropology professor Thom McDade, have been able to show that DNA can actually be modified by your environment during childhood. The authors of this study also conclude in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that these modifications can affect how or when you develop certain illnesses during adulthood.

By following over 500 children from the Philippines, researchers determined that certain childhood situations can create modifications in genes associated with inflammation, which directly affects how likely we are to develop certain illnesses. These factors included socioeconomic status, an extended period of time with no parent, how long or if the child was breastfed, being born during the dry season, and exposure to microbes in infancy.

So, what does this mean?

Essentially, DNA is a long text that uses a four-letter alphabet, which our cells use as an instruction manual for making proteins. The DNA sequence, or order of the letters, defines the genes that a person has, which remain the same throughout that person’s body. Only some genes, or sentences in the DNA alphabet, are necessary in order for each of the cell types to function.

“We could have genes in our bodies that might lead to some bad outcomes or adverse health outcomes, but if those genes are silent, if they’re turned off due to epigenetic processes, that can be a good thing,” said Thomas McDade, the principal author of the PNAS study.

Wondering what epigenetics is?

1. the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.
“epigenetics has transformed the way we think about genomes”

How our environment affects our health

Inflammation is the body’s reaction to infections and wounds, and it plays a crucial role in human health. Many of us are suffering from inflammation and don’t even realize it. Inflammation is a key factor in many fatal diseases that are related to old age, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and dementia.

The body is responsible for igniting an inflammatory response against various threats and threat levels, McDade explains, comparing the job of inflammation to the job of firefighters:

Let’s assume the fire is an infection or an injury and the fire department is the inflammatory response. You want the fire department to come as fast as possible and to use the least amount of water to put out any fire, and then you want them to leave. You don’t want them to come into your house with more firefighters than needed and to hose everything down to put out a small fire; nor do you want them to show up to a massive fire with just a bucket of water. Think of the potential damage in either scenario.

The researchers focused on inflammation for two reasons. First, previous research has shown that when children are exposed to certain environments, it can lead to improper inflammation regulation during adulthood. and they had access to a large body of data that had been compiled from many babies born in the Philippines that they could use to find out the data regarding methylation and inflammation.

This data was comprised of over 3000 pregnant women from the Philippines in 1983. They came from varying walks of life, some had access to clean water, a roof over their head –some didn’t. Some lived in urban areas, some rural. Some had regular contact with animals and some didn’t. The researchers looked at over 500 of these women;s records in order to figure out if their child’s environment while growing up actually led to epigenetic modifications to their DNA and later on to a change in the inflammatory proteins in their blood in adulthood.

The authors were able to determine that the environment of the children directly affected the level of inflammation-related proteins in their blood during adulthood.


The nutritional, microbial, physiological and social environments that children are exposed to while growing up play a huge role in the physiology and health of the children later in life, according to McDade. He also stresses the importance of prolonged breastfeeding, exposure to microbes and an abundance of family assets that led to the better regulation of the inflammatory proteins. Factors such as the prolonged absence of a parent, not enough exposure to microbes an a lack of family assets was predictive of a higher disregulation of the inflammatory proteins.

These are important factors to consider when raising your children, as their environment growing up will directly impact their health and their potential as adults… but then again, we are capable of changing our DNA, and science is starting to understand that as well, we are capable of anything that we put our minds to.

Source: Collective Evolution

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