Can factors in the womb affect your rate of aging later in life? A new study out today in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests just that. Scientists have long known that birthweight is a good predictor of health later in life — the heavier you are at birth, the better you will likely fare in older age— but now they’ve identified factors that connect the dots.
Looking at pairs of identical twins, researchers found that the twin who weighed less at birth often ages faster, even though the two have identical genes. What could be happening here? Aren’t genetics what determines our health? Scientists found that it’s actually epigenetic factors (simply the way our bodies turn genes “on” or “off”) that are determining aging here. And these specific epigenetic factors are influenced by chemicals and nutrition available in the womb.
But, this isn’t to say that our health later in life is set in stone. These epigenetic factors make up only one part of a much larger picture. Even if you were weighed in at an impressive 12 pounds (we really hope you give your mom a really stellar Mother's Day gift every year), you’ve still got to wear sunscreen. And, being a lightweight baby doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily age too quickly; you have control over your nutrition, exercise, and sleep schedule — all also very important factors in how you’ll feel, not only today, but also at 50. (Science Daily)