Being poor ‘leaves a mark’ on 10 percent of your genes

4-16-2019 extreme poverty creditde visu shutterstock
Image: De Visu/Shutterstock

The cycle of poverty isn’t just an economist’s tag slapped on repeat generations of poor, it is actually changing genetics.

In other words, poor eating habits associated with poverty can increase the risk of certain diseases for generations, as nutrition-linked diseases imprint their way onto swaths of the human genome.

That is according to a Northwestern University study that explores the harm of poverty in new ways and more broadly challenges the prevailing understanding of genes as immutable at the moment of conception.

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“First, we have known for a long time that socioeconomic status is a powerful determinant of health, but the underlying mechanisms through which our bodies ‘remember’ the experiences of poverty are not known,” said lead author Thomas McDade.

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They discovered that lower socioeconomic status is associated with levels of DNA methylation, which is the process of adding new material to a DNA molecule. That can, in turn, affect gene expression in an organism, the process by which instructions that are stored in human genes manifest, or not.

In fact, poverty leaves a mark on a not-insignificant 10% of the genes in the genome, according to the study.

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Read full, original post: The effects of being poor can literally alter the human genes, study finds

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