It sounds like science fiction but it is a scientific fact. A happy childhood leads to a healthy adult life. This is what scientists found when they examined the effects of childhood adversities to DNA. They found that the tiny protective caps of our chromosomes, which are called telomeres, shorten prematurely when kids consistently experience traumatic events. Scientists have found that long telomeres are associated with health and vitality, while short ones are usually found in seniors or chronically sick people.
Telomeres somehow record the accumulative impact of different lifestyle factors in our health. Although the way they do that is not clear yet, one thing is certain: they are sensitive to oxidative stress. It is well known that psychological pressure exposes our cells in debilitating free radicals. This could be a reason why telomeres become prematurely short. Research shows that adults who had difficult childhood years have consistently shorter telomeres and are at higher risk of chronic and debilitating disease.
If this sounds too exaggerated, think again. Doctors from the University of California have found that even when the expectant mother is experiencing consistent stress, the maternal hormonal and physiological responses are perceived and recorded by the fetal DNA. The research found that when women went through an intensely negative experience during pregnancy, their adult offspring had shorter telomeres, in comparison with individuals whose mother had a calm pregnancy. It looks like in some cases, adult disease is programmed in the fetal DNA. Psychiatric research now indicates that childhood maltreatment affects brain structure and in fact, the more serious the level of abuse, the more obvious neurobiological abnormalities are detected, especially in susceptible subjects.
More studies have found that children who experienced or even observed domestic violence not only experience more often depression, anxiety and reduced cognitive abilities, but also have detectable structural differences in the part of the brain that processes visual stimuli. This may potentially impact brain functions, such as figure recognition, object naming and conscious perception of visual movement, all modalities that are controlled by the affected brain structure. Guarding the emotional balance of your child is of utmost importance at all times.
Sources for this article include:
By Eleni Roumeliotou
About the author:
Eleni Roumeliotou holds a Master in Human Molecular Genetics by Imperial College London, UK. She is passionate about nutrition and has been writing on a freelance basis about all things natural, nutritional medicine and primal health for the last three years
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