Thursday, December 31, 2009

Poor children at greater risk of disease later in life

Chronic diseases late in life are more likely for children who grow up poor according to a new scientific study. Researchers at the University of British Columbia say that what a child goes through can have health consequences 50 or 60 years later. Some of the diseases that the poor are at greater risk to include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers.

From the Star Phoenix, writer John Bermingham talked to one of the study's co-authors.

The study of more than 100 Vancouver adults, split evenly between people whose parents had high and low socio-economic status, found that those with a poor childhood are biologically programmed into a more defensive "fight-or-flight" mode.

Co-author Michael Kobor, assistant professor of medical genetics at UBC, compared the gene profiles of healthy people, and could see clear differences between those who grew up in low and high-status conditions.

"It's clear that there is a different gene activity in people that grew up in low-status," said Kobor.

"It predisposes them to inflammation in their immune systems, which increases the chance of chronic disease down the road."

Kobor said that there might be plenty of things people can do to alter their genetic destiny.

"I don't think people are doomed," he said. "It really has to do with the environmental enrichment. Some people are resilient."

The pair are now doing further study on how loving parents can offset a lot of the negative consequences of a low-status childhood.

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