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Exposure to Stress and Poor Nutrition in Childhood Permanently Affects Your DNA

Based on research at Tulane University School of Medicine, scientists have proven that exposure to stress, violence or other traumatic events in the family during childhood can leave a lasting impact on stretches of DNA – so-called telomeres. This study is an evidence that stress and stressful home environment can permanently affect chromosomes.


Telomeres are sequences of DNA that are found at the end of chromosomes and act as protective caps, protecting the chromosomes from merging or degradation, which can lead to extinction of the cells. They are a type of mobile timers that limit the cells replication to the point where they can no longer multiply.

Shorter telomeres are associated with different diseases like:

To find the relationship between exposure to disturbed and violent events in his youth on the one hand and telomere length on the other hand, scientists have made several studies.

Exposure To Stress and Your DNA

According to the family environment and exposure to traumatic events in New Orléans, the team interviewed the parents of 80 children aged 5 to 15 years. When analyzing samples of DNA taken from these children, the team found a connection between exposure to domestic violence or family disruption and the length of telomeres. The children exposed to negative events in the family, have much shorter telomeres compared with children who lived in calmer and more stable families.

The researchers found differences between girls and boys also. They found that these traumatic events affect more of the length of telomeres in girls. For the boys under 10 years of age, they found that good education of their mother has a protective effect.

Stressful family situation affects children DNA cells. The greater exposure of these children to stress, the lower the length of their telomeres were. It includes other factors such as the age of the child, parents, their education and social status.

This is the second study that proves there is connection between a stressful home environment and the length of telomeres in children. The first study shows that children, who lived and grew up in poor and unstable homes, also had shorter telomeres than children raised in situated families.

These studies highlight omit the intervention in the domestic environment is inevitable to reduce the permanent biological impact of poor childhood.

Stress - DNA structure

Poor Nutrition and Your DNA

Scientists Dean Ornish, MD, and Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD made a small pilot study of how diet and lifestyle affect the length of telomeres. In September 2013, they conducted study on men in early-stage prostate cancer. They subjected them to low-fat, vegetable diet, meditation, exercise and time spent with family and friends. After 5 years, the length of telomeres in subjects increased by 10%, while in the other, out of this survey – fell by 3%.

Plant foods, rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants are great for telomeres affected by oxidative stress. Other independent study produced the following facts associated with longer telomeres:

  • Folic acid and other nutrients important for methylation.
  • Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium and other antioxidants.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Higher levels of vitamin D – because of its inflammatory effect.
  • Physical activity in leisure time.
  • Stress Management and Meditation

The findings of Dean Ornish and Elizabeth Blackburn has shown that combination of healthy food, avoiding stress, exercise and time spent with loved ones is a healthy lifestyle.