Childhood trauma changes metabolism over the generations – Naturopathic and naturopathic specialists portal

Effects of trauma on offspring

Childhood trauma leads to a change in the composition of the blood, which even seems to be transmitted to the offspring. This suggests that bad childhood events not only affect one’s own psyche, but also lead to changes in blood factors with potentially harmful effects for future generations.

Traumatic childhood experiences also affect future generations, according to the surprising result of a study involving researchers from the University of Zurich. The study was published in the English language trade journal “The EMBO Journal”.

Childhood trauma changes the blood

Researchers report that a traumatic experience changes the composition of blood in mice and humans. In a mice model, potentially harmful effects would also have been transferred to the offspring of the animals.

How are the triggered signals integrated into the germ cells?

The researchers were particularly interested in how signals triggered by trauma are integrated into germ cells, which is a prerequisite for their transmission to the next generation. The team studied the hypothesis that blood components play an important role. Indeed, experts have been able to prove that the traumatic experiences of childhood influence the composition of blood throughout life and that the changes are even transmitted to the offspring.

The result is of great importance for medicine

This result is of great relevance to medicine because it is the first time that it has linked early trauma to metabolic diseases in offspring, the researchers explain. A full analysis was performed to determine if these early experiences had any effect on blood composition. The research team found many significant differences between the blood of traumatized animals and normal mice in the control group.

Changes in lipid metabolism were very noticeable

In the mouse model of childhood trauma, the effects were passed on from traumatized males to their male offspring. Changes in lipid metabolism were also particularly noticeable. For example, polyunsaturated fatty acids were present in higher concentrations after trauma. The researchers report that the same changes were seen in the offspring of affected male animals.

When the blood of traumatized animals was injected into non-traumatized male mice, the offspring of these animals also developed symptoms of trauma. This is important evidence that the blood transmits stress messages to the germ cells, the team explains.

The survey also included 25 children

The research group therefore sought to find out whether similar effects could also occur in humans. To this end, the blood and saliva of 25 children from an SOS Children’s Village in Pakistan were analyzed. The children’s father had passed away and they had grown up apart from their mother. Compared to children from intact families, several factors in fat metabolism actually increased in the orphans.

“The traumatic experiences of these children can be compared very well with our mouse model and their metabolism shows similar blood changes”, reports Isabelle Mansuy, professor of neuroepigenetics, Brain Research Institute at the University of Zurich and the Institute of Neuroscience at ETH Zurich in a press release.

Another mechanism played an important role

The team also discovered another molecular mechanism by which factors involved in lipid metabolism transmit signals to germ cells, with the so-called PPAR receptor on the cell surface playing a key role. This is activated by fatty acids and regulates gene expression and DNA structure in many tissues, the team explains.

Traumatic childhood experiences even affect future generations. (Image: dmitrimaruta /

The receptor was upregulated in semen

The researchers found that the receptor in the semen of traumatized mice was upregulated. Artificial activation of the receptor led to a reduction in body weight in male mice and their offspring and, in addition, to disturbances in the metabolism of sugars.

From the investigations carried out, the researchers deduced that the activation of the PPAR receptor in semen caused by fatty acids is important for the heredity of the metabolic effects caused by trauma.

Intergenerational effects on the body

“Our results show that trauma early in life affects not only psychological but also physical health in adulthood across generations, for example fat metabolism and sugar balance,” Mansuy explains. A better knowledge of the responsible biological processes could help in the future to prevent the subsequent consequences of trauma through preventive medical care. (as)

Author and source information

Fade now

This text complies with the requirements of specialized medical literature, medical directives and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Gretchen van Steenwyk, Katharina Gapp, Ali Jawaid, Pierre – Luc Germain, Francesca Manuella et al .: Involvement of circulating factors in the transmission of paternal experiences through the germ line, in The EMBO Journal (published October 9, 2020), The EMBO JournalUniversität Zürich: Early trauma affects metabolism across generations (published October 15, 2020), University of Zurich

Important note:
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.