You Are What Your Parents Eat

By: Jennifer Fischer

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Article Summary

The article You Are What Your Parents Eat was written by a freelance science writer named David Levin and published by Tufts Now on March 31, 2016. During WWII due to a Nazi blockade famine spread over much of the Netherlands, some people consuming less than 600 calories a day. This provided an opportunity for scientists and researchers to study the effects of malnutrition on a long term scale and how malnutrition in parents affected the health of their offspring. Not surprising many children born to mothers who lived during the famine had low birth weights, but scientists also found that later in life many had other health concerns; such as, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. This led researchers to concluding that the nutritional health of the parents can have an impact on the health of any offspring later in life. Researchers experimented and discovered that these certain problems mentioned come about when certain genes in the parents are turned on or off. In pregnant woman who did not consume enough folate or B vitamins is when scientists see these health concerns already mentioned which can be passed to any offspring. Researchers have found that the pregnant mothers are not the only ones at fault. Men have sperm cells which can change and are sensitive to environmental changes, such as, poor nutrition status, which can cause changes to the sperm and affect the health of future offspring. Scientists have concluded that while the nutritional status of our parents and any potential health problems they may have can affect our future health they have found that it is not necessarily true because they have found that our own nutritional and overall health also has a strong influence in any certain health risks we may develop.

Article Critique

The author of this article is David Levin who is a freelance science writer. The author is an overall concern because one he is not a scientist or a researcher so it would be difficult for him to validate the science or the research that he is writing about. He is also not contracted through the publisher, which means that his work cannot be as heavily supervised as one of the publishers own employees. Other than the fact that he is a freelance science writer much of his background is unknown, and it can be hard to see the strength in his credentials. However, the publisher of the article has very strong credentials. The publisher is Tufts Now which is the college newspaper of Tufts University in Massachusetts. Also much of the research that David Levin is writing about was done by the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, which is at Tufts University. In terms of the validity of the information much of the information centers on research done during WWII in the Netherlands during a time of famine and later in the 1990s looking at Dutch medical records of children whose mothers were pregnant at the time of the famine. Due to the fact that much is not stated about the mother’s health other than that she was pregnant at the time of the famine, it can be hard to infer what her nutritional status was and what its potential impact on future offspring would be. Just because a mother was pregnant at the time of the famine does not prove she was starving, or tell us what nutrients she could potentially be deficient in. In 2011, a scientist named Jimmy Crott at HNRCA tested this theory in pregnant mice by providing a diet rich in folate and B vitamins, while others were given a diet lacking in nutrients. He validated his theory by proving that certain health problems arise when certain genes are turned on or off. He discovered that the mice that had a nutrient rich diet had a lower rate of developing cancer due to a more active tumor suppressor gene, which can then be passed on to any offspring. This provides strong validation for the information in this article because it demonstrates research that provides evidentiary support for its argument and was done by a scientist at a respected in institution. The article concludes by stating the nutritional health of the parents only impacts us 50% while the other half is our own nutritional choices supporting other common medical knowledge that much of the health problems we have is the result of our own lifestyle choices. The information in this article in my opinion has strong credentials because the author routinely validates his arguments with strong scientific support done by respected scientists and research institutions, and is supported by other medical knowledge at this time.

References

Levin, D. (2016, March 31). You Are What Your Parents Eat. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from http://now.tufts.edu/articles/you-are-what-your-parents-eat