Is Parent’s Income Level Playing A Role In Causing Children’s Poor Health?

Inflammation is a process by which the body’s white blood cells and chemicals protect us from infection with foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses.

However, in some diseases, like arthritis, the body’s defense system — the immune system — triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign substances to fight off. In these diseases, called autoimmune diseases, the body’s normally protective immune system causes damage to its own tissues. The body responds as if normal tissues are infected or somehow abnormal.

 What Diseases Are Associated With Inflammation?

Some, but not all, types of arthritis are the result of misdirected inflammation. Arthritis is a general term that describes inflammation in the joints. Some types of arthritis associated with inflammation include the following:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Gouty arthritis

Often, only a few of these symptoms are present.

Inflammation may also be associated with general flu-like symptoms including:

    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Fatigue/loss of energy
    • Headaches
    • Loss of appetite
    • Muscle stiffness

“Many health problems in both childhood and adulthood involve excessive inflammation,” said Gregory E. Miller, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “The process has a role in diabetes, heart disease, allergies and some cancers.”

The general concept is that constant or out-of-control inflammation in the body leads to ill health, and that eating to avoid constant inflammation promotes better health and can ward off disease, says Russell Greenfield, MD, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina.

The average American diet, Greenfield says, includes far too many foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids, found in processed and fast foods, and far too few rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in cold-water fish or supplements

The risk of inflammation, a chronic over activation of parts of the immune system in children from low-income families, can be reduced by teaching poor parents good parenting, nutrition ignorance, and life skills.

Researchers at the Northwestern University claim that intervention strategy helps parents nurture children and also lower inflammation.

At various stages of life, children from low socioeconomic status (SES) experience inflammation and poorer health as compared to their better off peers. They suffer from lower birth weights at infancy and are at an increased risk of age-related chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

The studies included families from small, rural areas in Georgia. Nearly 90 percent of the families belonged to low-income background. They basically focused on mothers and their 11-year-old children. Nearly 170 of the families were put through a seven-week training program that focused on enhancing parenting and smoothening communication between parents and children. The program also helped children develop strategies to deal with stress, racism and peer pressure that exists around sex, drugs and alcohol.

Later, when the children turned 19 years old they collected the blood samples in order to measure the extent of inflammation. It was seen that the children, now adults, who underwent the training program had experienced a significantly lower inflammation when compared to the control group. However, the researchers failed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship as the study was designed to prove whether or not the intervention strategy had a direct effect on the levels of inflammation.

“We also found that the training was most successful in reducing inflammation in families who came from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods,” Miller said. “The study is also novel in its focus on families who are at high risk for health problems relative to other Americans.”

The study was documented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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