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Nourishing Nature’s Blueprint for a Child full of Possibles

 

Marcelino Reysio-Cruz III, MD
Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician
Diplomate, Philippine Pediatric Society
Fellow, Philippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

Making the most of Nature’s Genetic Blueprint

You have heard the saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” The genes we inherit from our parents do more than just determine the color of our skin, eyes or hair. A big proportion of these genes are found mainly in our brain. This blueprint from nature directs brain cells or neurons to develop and mature.

Neurons in the brain are connected by transmission lines called synapses which allow the sending of signals from one neuron to another. These signals develop our brain’s capabilities and stimulate the different senses that make us unique. The way we think, talk, feel and behave is the expression or manifestation of this genetic blueprint development.

A child’s inherited genes are therefore nature’s given blueprint. How parents nourish its development spells the difference in their expression. Making the most of nature’s blueprint for a growing child is undoubtedly a noble parental duty. Good nutrition and a supportive environment are important for a child to grow and excel in life.

A child who is deprived of good nutrition and is lacking on the necessary environmental stimulation and parental care, more likely loses the opportunities to maximize his innate potential as an individual.

Parental Epigenetic Influence?

This vital parental role in positively influencing the expression of their child’s unique blueprint has its basis on the science of epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how gene expression can be modified. After all, gene expression isn’t fixed. Although inherited genes can never be eliminated, they can be turned “on” and “off” for positive results. For example, parents healthy eating and feeding practices help a child learn to eat properly and switch off that innate tendency to overeat and become overweight or obese.

A hyperactive child, introduced to any active sport like basketball, swimming, football, gymnastics etc. enjoys a positive outlet for all that bursting energy. It even keeps the child healthy with strong muscles and bones. As opportunities abound for a healthy child to actively explore the world, he learns to interact better and acquire more knowledge. This beneficial switching off of hyperactivity and turning it to a love of sports and fitness is another example of positive influence on gene expression.

A naturally shy child introduced to the world of arts like drawing, painting, singing, dancing and crafts; learns to express himself better and gain more confidence. Admiration and appreciation for his work and achievements from parents, family and friends are effective confidence boosters any child would love to get. Interacting with other children like him in group classes also enable him to socialize better and enjoy the company of others.

All these seemingly simple, external factors like healthy, balanced meals or good nutrition, opportunities for intellectual stimulation and a multitude of parent-child interactions help a child bloom to be the best he can be.

As Sir Francis Galton aptly said, Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the world; nurture is every influence without that affects him after his birth.4

 


 References:

1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. National Institutes of Health. Brain Basics: Genes at Work in the Brain. NIH Publication No. 10-5475. July 2010.

2. Fagiolini M, Jensen CL, Champagne FA. Epigenetic influences on brain development and plasticity. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2009;19(2):207-212. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2009.05.009.

3. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2000).

4. Francis Galton, 1874.

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