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Descendants of Holocaust Survivors Have Altered Stress Hormones - Scientific American


Stashed in: Joo, Stress, Genetics

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Epigenetic changes often serve to biologically prepare offspring for an environment similar to that of the parents, Yehuda explains. In this case, however, the needs of the fetus seem to have trumped that goal. With low levels of cortisol and high levels of the enzyme that breaks it down, many descendants of Holocaust survivors would be ill adapted to survive starvation themselves. In fact, that stress hormone profile might make them more susceptible to PTSD (below, yellow); previous studies have indeed suggested that the offspring of Holocaust survivors are more vulnerable to the effects of stress and are more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD. These descendants may also be at risk for age-related metabolic syndromes, including obesity, hypertension and insulin resistance, particularly in an environment of plenty.

Yet it is still too early in our investigation into the epigenetics of this complex stress-response system to know for sure whether these molecular changes indicate any real-world risks or benefits. “If you are looking for it all to be logical and fall into place perfectly, it isn't going to yet,” Yehuda says. “We are just at the beginning of understanding this.”

MINDchart.jpg

So... Stress can be hereditary?

Inability/ability to cope with stressors can be hereditary.

Ah! That makes sense, unfortunately. 

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