Epigenetics, the Pandemic, and Kids

The emerging field of epigenetics is fascinating. Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. In other words, our genes are turned on and off based on environmental factors. The discovery that our genes are not our destiny has changed the way we view genetics. How does this relate to the current covid-19 situation? Read on to find out.

What is Epigenetics? The Answer to the Nature vs. Nurture Debate
This is important, because children have genes turned on and off based on life experiences and diet.

Here is an example of a pregnant mouse who was fed a regular mouse diet in the lab that was not very healthy, and her offspring were obese and sickly. When the pregnant mouse was fed a diet with methyl food groups, her babies were thin and healthy. Genetic expression for turning on and off has a lot to do with methylation and histones, but that starts to get technical and we are wanting to look at the big picture for all how the world is making changes in us.


During World War II, the Dutch were forced into famine. Women who were pregnant during the famine were studied and their children and grandchilden were also studied. It was discovered that the children and their children (the grandchildren) were effected by the environment that the mother in the famine had been in.

Here is an excerpt of the article: “More unexpectedly, the children whose mothers had been malnourished only early in pregnancy had higher obesity rates than normal. Recent reports have shown a greater incidence of other health problems as well, including effects on certain measures of mental health. Even though those individuals had seemed perfectly healthy at birth, something had happened to their devel­opment in the womb that affected them for decades after. And it wasn’t just the fact that something had happened that mattered, it was when it happened. Events that take place in the first three months of gestation, a stage when the fetus is really very small and developing very rapidly, can affect an individual for the rest of his or her life. Even more extraordinarily, some of these effects seem to be present in the children of this group, that is, in the grandchildren of the women who were malnour­ished during the first three months of their pregnancy. So something that happened in one pregnant population affected their children’s children. That raised the really puzzling question of how those effects were passed on to subsequent generations.”

“The patterns that Dr. Lumey and his colleagues documented are not disputed, but scientists still are struggling to understand how they come about.

“How on earth can your body remember the environment it was exposed to in the womb — and remember that decades later?” wondered Bas Heijmans, a geneticist at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Dr. Heijmans, Dr. Lumey and their colleagues published a possible answer, or part of one, on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. Their study suggests that the Dutch Hunger Winter  — and that they’ve stayed quiet ever since.”

On Saturday, August 8, an Indiana State legislator spoke to a large crowd protesting against the lockdown, the mask mandates, and the ongoing daily campaign of fear pushed on all of us. He talked about the children going through this covid-19 situation and being forced to wear masks, and he asked how that was going to effect their mental health. Mental health in the schools and for young people in general is a hot topic. However, the same media and government officials talking about needing more access to mental health treatments are also the ones creating fear which harms the children and the pregnant mothers. When we create a constant state of fear and anxiety, it harms our mental health. Currently, pregnant women are carrying babies that will have effects thrust upon them and their future generations based on the mothers’ reactions and experiences to this current environment.

If you have children, are going to have children one day, or are pregnant, please take a look at how you are reacting to our current world and do your best to decrease your stress and the stress on your children. If you don’t have children, it’s still important to decrease your stress, fear, and anxiety. None of us know the permanent genetic side effects that are going to happen to future generations due to this declared pandemic. Children are afraid of getting sick and dying, they are afraid their parents or grandparents are going to get sick and die. I see this. I hear kids saying they don’t want to get sick. I hear 5 year olds talking about not wanting to get the virus. Children and teens are going through a lot right now. Let’s do our best to shield our children from as much fear and harm as we can. Future generations are counting on us!

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