Inflammation is a common problem among poorer children, and can lead to a number of illnesses, according to Northwestern University researchers.
"Many health problems in both childhood and adulthood involve excessive inflammation. The process has a role in diabetes, heart disease, allergies and some cancers," study author Gregory Miller, a professor of psychology, said in a university news release.
The study focused on mothers and their 11-year-old children in rural areas of Georgia. Ninety percent of the study participants lived in low-income households. About 170 of the mother-child pairs completed a seven-week training program designed to improve parenting skills, enhance communication between parents and children, and teach children life skills, such as how to deal with stress, racism and peer pressure around sex, drugs and alcohol.
When the children turned 19, blood samples were collected from them in order to measure inflammation levels. The investigators found that those who had taken part in the training program had much less inflammation than those who were part of a "control group" that did not participate in the program.
"We also found that the training was most successful in reducing inflammation in families who came from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods," Miller said. "The study is also novel in its focus on families who are at high risk for health problems relative to other Americans."
The study was published online July 21 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Although inflammation decreased in children who completed the classes with a parent, the study could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship because it wasn't designed to prove whether or not those classes had a direct effect on inflammation levels.
The American Heart Association has more about inflammation and heart disease.