Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Ghost in Your Genes

I've watched a bunch of interesting videos lately for my psychology class. The Ghost in Your Genes was this very fascinating, yet mildly alarming video that looked at the things that we inherit, not only from our parents, but our grandparents, and great grand parents. It's not just the color of your hair and eyes either. Scientists are looking at how factors like nutrition deficiencies, exposure to toxins, and even stress of grandparents can be encoded in DNA, and the grandchildren can have repercussions decades later. It's actually a bit scary. In studies with mice, extremely stressful situations produced anxious offspring even three generations later! It was like they were encoded to be little freaked out stresser mice. This does not make me feel very reassured for what kind of things my children will be prone to.

All this makes me think about things like the pesticide DDT which has been illegal in the US for decades, but is still found in soil, animals and even humans who were not even born when it was being sprayed. I wonder what effects will be seen in future generations from the array of drugs and technical interventions now being used in almost every birth in the US. Synthetic hormones, narcotics and antibiotics are used as routine procedures surrounding hospital birth- and there isn't any way to definitively know how these will effect the babies later on other than waiting and seeing. By then it will of course be too late; the damage will have been done. What about the processed foods and chemicals that make up a large portion of the American diet now- how will those effect our grandchildren? There's also the obesity rate, and the immense amount of prescription medications people regularly take these days.

This all leads me toward gloom and doom feelings over the future of our species, and the mess we are getting ourselves into. But, I am making a conscience effort not to be a freak about such things, and rather look at my own life, and see what I can do. Besides, if I am a constant stress case, what will that do to my future grand babies? At least my kids didn't get all the drugs and trauma at their births, and we do try to live a pretty relaxed life and eat good whole food. In general, I am a bit on the skeptical side with a lot of things- I'm not a big fan of waiting to see if the harmfulness of something is proven. I'm more likely to hold off or skip it, but I do need to work on my verbal negativity about the world, or I'll raise little cynics. I'm sure there will be some weird things my kids will inherit anyway, and while this research does make me uncomfortable about all the damage from the past, it also sure makes me glad for my current sheltering habits.


  1. As I sit here and watch rented "Food, Inc." I'm seriously wondering how to impress upon my kids the state of our food systems, and not totally make them weirdos.....and rebel against me later for being such a for the mess we are making - we are such a tiny dot in time....such a huge concept, but oh so amazing when you look at dinosaur timelines with your babies!

  2. I wonder too how to make the impression on my kids about food, and not have them feel like they need to rebel by going completely in the opposite direction and living on fast food. I'm hoping that if they see things like "Food Inc" and “Supersize Me” themselves, it will make an impression on them to at least make thoughtful choices. Of course, it's all theory at this point. They're still pretty young, so time will tell. So far, one of my offspring takes most things to heart- injustice in the world, chemicals in food- all of it, and wants to do things, change things, to make it a better place. The other kid does seem to take it all, and think about it too, but in the end, he's more likely to say “what the heck” and eat the hot dog.

  3. On the other hand though, think about what positive things the exposure to ever increasing ammounts of information might do to ourselves and our families' dna and future.

    You may worry about the things you mentioned, but you have also *found out* about them. Which helps you plan your lives/nutrition/environment a bit better.
    I read somewhere (online) that it can take years off you/your kids lives if you live right near an airport or motorway...and now we have moved away from being near one. It wasn't the only factor, but it was a part of the decision.
    My grandparents wouldn't have had access to that information in their day, so wouldn't have moved.

    It can make you feel disempowered though, learning about dna...

  4. Very true! Access to information really is a blessing that can help us make decisions and shape our choices. I like that positive way of looking at it. Next time I'm stressing about such things, I'm going to remind myself that knowledge is power. Thanks!


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