Science 2 min read

New Research: Poverty Leaves A Mark On Our Genes

A new study has solidified the findings of past research in showing that poverty significantly affects our physical wellbeing.

Pixabay

Pixabay

According to a Northwestern University research, poverty leaves a lasting molecular imprint on the body.

Previous studies have linked socioeconomic status (SES) with human health and diseases. For example, researchers noticed an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in people with low income and education level.

They also associated lower socioeconomic status with the physiological processes that contribute to the development of diseases. These include cortisol dysregulation, insulin resistance, and chronic inflammation.

While these previous studies explained the body’s response to a low SES, it also raises a bigger question. How does your body know your income level?

Well, according to a publication in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, poverty leaves a mark across vast swaths of the genome.

Identifying Poverty in the Gene

In a recent study, researchers discovered a link between lower socioeconomic status and levels of DNA methylation (DNAm) – an essential epigenetic marker that influences gene expression – at over 2,500 sites across 1,500 genes.

Simply put, poverty leaves a mark on almost 10 percent of the genes in the genome.

Why is this discovery important, you wonder? Lead author of the study, Thomas McDade cited two reasons.

McDade wrote:

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

According to the Professor of Anthropology, the studies suggest that DNA methylation may play a significant role in the whole process.

Secondly, the study has practically dismissed the nature versus nurture debate. McDade explained that the genome stores our experiences over time, and this shapes its structure and function.

“There is no nature vs. nurture,” he concluded.

With that said, the researchers believe that a follow-up study is necessary to determine how differential methylation at the identified site affects our health.

McDade noted:

“These are the areas we’ll be focusing on to determine if DNA methylation is indeed an important mechanism through which socioeconomic status can leave a lasting molecular imprint on the body, with implications for health later in life.”

Read More: Mad Science: David Ishee And His Open Source DIY Gene Hacking

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

Comments (4)
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  1. Profile Image
    Anthony Crosier April 10 at 5:07 am GMT

    Is DNA methylation good or bad?

    • Profile Image
      Derrick Vanwyk April 11 at 1:51 pm GMT

      The solidified connection between methylation abnormalities and diseases does not mean its bad.

  2. Profile Image
    JAMES EDE April 12 at 3:56 pm GMT

    Does poverty affect the spending habit of a person after he comes out of it?

    • Profile Image
      Anthony Crosier April 21 at 12:23 pm GMT

      Probably, money can change people, but growing up feeling deprived impacts future spending habits.

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