ACE and Inflamation
June 24, 2019 § Leave a comment
CHILDHOOD abuse has long been suspected of increasing a person’s risk of developing disease later in life. Now researchers studying inflammation in the bloodstream think they might know why.
Previous studies have suggested that childhood trauma increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and other disorders normally associated with obesity in adulthood.
To investigate further, Andrea Danese at King’s College London and his colleagues monitored 1000 people in New Zealand from birth to the age of 32, noting any factors that created stress, and recorded levels of C-reactive protein in their blood. The protein is a marker of inflammation and has been linked to heart disease.
They found that people who reported having been physically or sexually abused, or rejected by their mothers at a young age, were twice as likely to have significant levels of C-reactive protein in their blood (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0610362104).
Danese believes that stress induces abnormal levels of inflammation in children, which has repercussions in adulthood. “Inflammation is a natural response to physical trauma such as cutting yourself or getting an infection,” he says, “but psychological stress can also trigger inflammation, because stress is really the anticipation of pain.”
He suggests that constant stress could also reduce a child’s ability to produce glucocorticoid hormones, which are the main mechanism the body uses to turn off inflammation. His team now plans further work to measure glucocorticoid levels in people who were exposed to stress during childhood.
“This is much stronger than simply saying that people who have a harder time in childhood are more miserable or depressed as adults,” says Andrew Steptoe at University College London, who has studied the relationship between emotional triggers and heart disease. “They have elegantly connected childhood stress to a real adult risk of disease.”
Danese hopes his work will help people identify those at risk of developing heart disease at an earlier age.
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