Early Life Stress, DNA Methylation & Disparities in Obesity Across Generations

Sylvie Mrug, PhD

Stress during childhood and adolescence exerts strong effects on our health throughout our life. Individuals who experience high levels of stress during childhood and adolescence are more likely to develop obesity and related chronic health conditions. African American individuals, who are known to experience higher levels of stress are also disproportionally affected by obesity-related health conditions. However, the biological processes that would explain the effects of stress on obesity and health are not well understood. One of the biological processes that may explain these findings includes methylation of DNA, a mechanism known to influence early life stress on health.   

This study will link multiple types of stress assessed during childhood and adolescence with DNA methylation and obesity-related outcomes in adulthood. This will allow us to better understand how stress during development affects our bodies and health, and the role of these processes in health disparities.