Childhood trauma turns into entrenched 'underneath the pores and skin' and hampers muscle operate in previous age | Health & Wellness | EUROtoday

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In 2022, 7,723 complaints have been formalized in Spain for mistreatment within the household of minors underneath 18 years of age, based on the most recent information accessible from the Ministry of the Interior. “And this is just the tip of the iceberg. According to studies, at the European level it is estimated that one in 10 minors in Europe is physically abused by their caregivers; and that three out of 10 are emotionally abused,” says Carmela del Moral, head of childhood policies at Save the Children. To that figure, we would have to add the more than 6,350 complaints of sexual assault against minors under 18 years of age presented in that same 2022. Only taking into account the facts actually reported in these two crime categories, it can be concluded that more than 14,000 minors in Spain were exposed in a single year to a trauma that, in many cases, if the necessary psychological care is not received, can cause them, when they reach adolescence or adulthood, to be at greater risk of suffering from a mental disorder. “Mistreatment, abuse and everything they entail affects the development of those who suffer it at all levels. Even to the way in which that person generates relationships, attachments and bonds,” says Del Moral.

The impact of this trauma can even remain hidden for years. under the skin and manifest when these children reach old age through worse muscle function. This has been demonstrated by a study led by researchers from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and published in the journal Science Advances. The study analyzed 879 participants over 70 years of age, of whom 45% acknowledged having suffered one or more traumatic events during childhood, including physical or verbal violence by parents, physical abuse or the absence of one of the parents. parents. All participants donated muscle and fat samples. Muscle samples were biopsied to determine two key characteristics of muscle function: the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a compound produced by mitochondria that provides chemical energy to fuel cellular function; and what is known as oxidative phosphorylation, a process that helps produce ATP. The result? Both men and women who reported experiencing traumatic events in childhood had poorer peak ATP production. That is, trauma in childhood was a predictor of poorer muscle metabolism in old age.

“This is the first time we've looked back to see what kinds of things could lead to differences in mitochondrial function in older people, which we know can lead to variations in healthy aging outcomes among older adults,” says Anthony Molina. , scientific director of the Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California and one of the authors of the study. According to Molina, the research results suggest that early childhood formative experiences “have the ability to penetrate under the skin and influence the mitochondria of skeletal muscle.” An important conclusion because, according to the expert, mitochondrial function is related to a series of outcomes related to healthy aging: “We can say that the fact that mitochondrial function is compromised does not bode well for a variety of health outcomes.” , which include everything from chronic conditions to physical dysfunctions or disability limitations.”

“This study shows that childhood can mark your aging and confirms that our health is not predetermined solely by genetics, but that epigenetics has an important impact. As Dr. Judith Stern said, genetics loads the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger,” reflects Dr. Ángel Durántez, one of the greatest Spanish experts in the field of anti-aging medicine, who adds that studies with mice also show has proven that parental care can affect the stress response of offspring, producing epigenetic changes in certain areas of the brain linked to behavior and the endocrine response to stress.

In that same sense, another recent scientific study carried out by researchers from the universities of Cambridge (United Kingdom) and Leiden (Holland) and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that childhood abuse produces changes in the structure of the brain that are related to a greater propensity to experience obesity, inflammation and new traumatic events in adulthood; all of them, according to the authors, risk factors for poor health that, in turn, in an inexhaustible vicious circle, also affect the structure of the brain and, therefore, brain health.

An increased risk of mental disorders and addictions

The impact of childhood trauma on brain health is, surely, the most studied and scientifically supported. Another study published in the journal Addiction a few weeks ago added to the extensive body of scientific evidence by concluding, using data from more than 6,000 children born between 1981 and 1983 at the Mater Mothers Hospital in Brisbane (Australia), that children who suffer abuse are three times more likely to develop Substance use disorders in adulthood.

“The results of the study coincide with those of many other investigations that have demonstrated this relationship between child abuse and a greater susceptibility throughout life to suffering from mental illnesses,” says Alicia Valiente Gómez, psychiatrist on the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona. coordinator of the Research Unit of the Forum Center and researcher at CIBERSAM. From the Catalan middle itself, in 2020 they made public the information of a examine through which a pattern of 150 individuals who had a substance abuse dysfunction and, most often, additionally an related psychological dysfunction, a situation that was recruited, have been recruited. It is named twin pathology. According to the outcomes, 94% of the pattern had at the very least one traumatic occasion all through their lives and 20% of those individuals even met the standards for the analysis of post-traumatic stress dysfunction. Another meta-analysis from 2022 with a pattern of greater than 16,000 sufferers and 77,000 controls, additionally led by the Centro Fórum Research Unit, concluded that childhood psychological trauma is a transdiagnostic threat consider psychiatry, because it multiplied by three the chances of develop any kind of psychological dysfunction (together with addictions) in maturity.

The prognosis of those sufferers, based on Valiente Gómez, can be worse and the signs are extra critical. “The majority of these people never receive adequate treatment throughout their lives. When they come to us they are usually already adults and the damage has already been done because the changes are persistent. But that does not mean that with adequate treatment we cannot improve the symptoms of these patients,” explains the psychiatrist, who highlights the significance of growing prevention insurance policies that permit conditions of vulnerability to be recognized early and intervene in them.

“The sooner these situations can be identified and the sooner we can offer a safe environment and adequate follow-up to these children, the more chances we will have of reducing the subsequent risk of developing complications, whether somatic or psychiatric. The fact that we have suffered a trauma does not mean that we can no longer do anything. Today we have treatments focused on trauma with scientific evidence that greatly improve the course and prognosis of associated mental illnesses and even somatic illnesses,” argues the researcher.

This opinion is shared by Carmela del Moral, who believes that this kind of examine can counteract the arguments that even at the moment validate concepts such because the “slap in time” or mantras equivalent to “it has always been done this way and nothing has happened.” “Scientific evidence shows that it does happen and makes it clear that living a childhood free of violence is not only a question of human rights and childhood rights, but also a health issue that even has costs for the public system.” many greater than people who would certainly suggest the implementation of fine prevention methods,” concludes the Save the Children spokesperson.

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