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.