(Cracked.com) You know that the people who raised you have played a huge part in shaping who you are, especially if you’re unfortunate enough to be Chinese. What you may not realize is that this process began before you were born, and in some cases, before your parents even met each other. This is just another care package of horrors mailed directly to your brain from the scientific community.
7. The month she gives birth determines how good you will be at sports
If 80s movies have taught us anything, it’s that being a high school sports star requires only beefcake, a cheerleader girlfriend and a complete lack of basic human empathy. In reality, it takes a lot of hard work, but you still need to have the right birthday. Researchers from The University of Queensland analyzed the birthdays of Australian soccer players and discovered that the month in which you are born plays a huge role in your athletic success. They found that there were 33 percent more professional soccer players than expected born in the month of January and 25 percent fewer born in December. The Australian school year starts in January (because their seasons are upside-down), so kids born in that month are almost a full year older than the December-born kids who join a team in the same year of high school. Because kids grow like crazy, the ones who are just a little older tend to crush their slightly younger opposition. It’s enough of an effect that, by the end of schooling, graduating sports stars are toned, athletic, January-born supersoldiers, while their December-born classmates are broken shells of human beings who turn to accounting or Internet comedy writing. The bad luck doesn’t end there for those born on the wrong side of summer. A recent Michigan State University study shows that the youngest kids in a class are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their older peers. It’s not due to brain injuries suffered by being held head-first in a toilet bowl by older jocks — quite simply, the youngest kids are less mature than their older classmates, and some pediatricians make the mistake of diagnosing kids based on their grade at school rather than their age. The effect is most noticeable in kindergarten. Kids born at the end of September, after the enrollment cutoff, wind up in classes with kids born at the beginning of September of the following year. So when playtime rolls around and Johnny picks up See Spot Run while Timmy just messes around with the hamburger phone, the teacher assumes that Johnny is a prodigy and that there’s something wrong with Timmy’s brain.
6. If your mother eats black licorice, it can lower your IQ
Knowing your mother’s favorite candy is extremely useful coming up to Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, if you happen to know that the answer is “licorice,” we’re sorry to inform you that you are utterly doomed. Your mother’s favorite candy may have lowered your intelligence and could have even given you a behavioral disorder. A study on a bunch of 8-year-olds in Finland, where licorice is basically one of the food groups, found that the children whose mothers had consumed more than 100 grams of pure licorice during pregnancy performed worse than their peers on a variety of cognitive functions, including vocabulary, memory and spatial awareness. They were also more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. The culprit appears to be a component in the candy called glycyrrhizin, which, in addition to harboring a severe vowel deficiency, may impair the placenta and allow more stress hormones to pass from the mother to the fetus. This kind of makes the baby stressed by proxy, so the fetus starts producing a hormone called cortisol to deal with it. This leads to the children having levels of cortisol up to one-third higher than their peers have. Cortisol increases your tolerance of stress, so it’s beneficial if you want to be, say, a brain surgeon or a professional lion castrator. Unfortunately, too much of it is also linked to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and all sorts of brain problems. Finally, we have somebody else to blame for our failing education system: the Finns.
5. Her stress during pregnancy can change your behavior
Anyone who has taken a long family road trip knows that our parents’ stress is highly contagious, but you may not realize that it’s also made you frail and stupid. Scientists have now discovered that stress during pregnancy is connected to allergies, autism, slow development and learning difficulties in infants. Your mom doesn’t have to be an air traffic controller or in charge of de-escalating a nuclear standoff. It turns out that common relationship problems and financial issues somehow boost the level of antibodies associated with asthma and allergies in an unborn baby. These are the antibodies that overreact like fans at an ICP concert if you make contact with dust, pollen or dogs. If you have too many, you have to live in a plastic bubble in order to breathe. This story gets much worse if the stress your mother dealt with was associated with home renovation. Like, lying awake at night agonizing over whether to paint the baby’s room pink or blue. It turns out that chemicals released during stress form a horrible, horrible cocktail if they’re combined with certain chemicals in glues, paints and plastics. For example, if you’re a guy and your mother got too stressed-out while inhaling paint fumes, your balls may never drop. And that’s just one of the many awful and emasculating conditions you may have to deal with. Rest assured, though, she only stressed because she loved you. And if she’d known all this back then, being stressed would have only made her more stressed. Depending on your perspective, scientific enlightenment has either doomed the next generation or made them way more likely to be born with a contact high.
4. Mom’s diet determines what you’ll like to eat
When you’re a kid, half of the appeal of adulthood is the freedom of deciding what you want to eat, without Mom’s meddling. We here at Cracked enjoy an ice cream sandwich for breakfast every single morning. The bad news is, scientists have discovered that even if you live thousands of miles away from your mother, she’s still controlling your diet from the past. A mother’s choice of comfort food during pregnancy has a profound impact on what her children spend the rest of their lives eating, or in some cases, stuffing their fat, greasy-jowled faces with. Scientists have discovered that the flavors in a pregnant mother’s diet actually affect the structure of a fetus’s brain. To test their hypothesis, researchers plied some pregnant mothers with carrot juice, carrots long having been recognized as baby kryptonite. Astonishingly, the babies whose moms drank the carrot juice showed a preference for carrot-flavored cereal, rather than just smearing it all over themselves and throwing it onto the walls. It’s kind of terrifying to think that those cheeseburgers you ate while pregnant may have doomed your child to a life of good old American obesity. The implications go well beyond simply determining your dietary preferences. Researchers have found that alcohol exposure during fetal development may be linked directly to teenage binge drinking. Although the research to prove this connection has been performed only on rats, because trying to turn babies into alcoholics by getting their pregnant moms smashed is seen to have undesirable ethical ramifications, even in the name of science.
3. Mom’s diet before pregnancy can change your gender
Your mother’s preference for greasy fried chicken before your incubation stage may have had a greater effect on your life than just perpetuating the obesity cycle. It may have determined what kind of junk you have. In a study involving 740 pregnant British women, researchers found that mothers who ate higher-calorie diets around the time of conception had a 56 percent chance of having sons, while those with lower-calorie diets at the time had only a 45 percent chance of having them. Women who consistently ate breakfast and consumed a wide range of high quality nutrients also had a higher incidence of sons than their less-health-conscious peers. In case any guys reading this are getting a big head, Darwin says it’s because you’re expendable. In nature, when times are tough and food is scarce, it’s better for the species for there to be more chicks than dudes. To see why, just imagine a situation in which we had to repopulate the human race, and the human race consisted of 50 men and one woman. The research was inspired to help answer the question of why the birth rate of baby boys has been sharply dropping in developed countries. The answer, at least in part, seems to be the fact that pregnant women are more likely to both diet and eat junk food. The lack of calories and the fact that they tend to be low-quality calories tricks their bodies into thinking that some kind of apocalypse has wiped out our ability to wastefully mass-produce convenient, high-quality food, and that it’s time to start cranking out X chromosomes to bring the species back from the brink of a sexpocalypse.
2. The season she gives birth to you determines what birth defects you’ll get
Spring is the season when all creatures in nature gets on with the job of boning one another senseless, but a new study suggests that you should probably just take a cold shower. According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children conceived from April to June have a three percent higher rate of birth defects than their peers conceived in other seasons. The potential birth defects, not one of which involves a superpower, range from cleft lips to potentially fatal heart deformities. The reason appears to be that spring is the season when farmers restart their operations and spray pesticides on their fields that do funky things to our air and water. Exposure to pesticides during this time is virtually unavoidable, and the chemicals reside in the body tissues 99 percent of the population. As a result, 80 to 100 percent of fetuses in the United States are exposed to at least one pesticide before birth. During spring, you’re being bombarded with enough chemicals to turn you into a Batman villain, and it doesn’t make much difference where in the country you are, though it is something to remember for anyone who fantasizes about screwing in a cornfield.
1. If your dad smoked when he was a kid, you’ll be fatter
Back when your dad was a rebellious teenager, smoking was still seen as cool rather than a horrible vice that attracts disapproving glares from everyone nearby. But it turns out that, in addition to making him a walking cancer time-bomb, your father’s prepubescent James Dean imitation is now making you fat. Scientists examined the records of 14,024 fathers, 166 of whom smoked before age 11. The sons of prepubescent smokers had a much higher body mass index at nine years old than their peers with nonsmoking fathers. The reason for this seems to lie within a new field of science called epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how short-term environmental factors can be passed down to your offspring. The reason this phenomenon is specific to your father is because males don’t start producing sperm until puberty, while females are born with their whole clutch of eggs. If your dad smoked before puberty, then he triggered changes in his own body that later translated to producing mutant freak-sperms. On the plus side, your dad’s leather jacket, sidelong don’t-give-a-fuck glances and billowing cigarette smoke probably helped him get laid in the first place. But the sperm that grew up to become you was one fat bastard. And not only did it doom you to a life of sausage-fingers and sweating while you eat, but it’s probably given you a shorter lifespan to boot. The field of epigenetics is opening up a whole new world of discoveries about the myriad ways your parents screwed you before birth, and in a few years, it may spawn a sequel to this article a thousand entries long. According to Time magazine, the epigenome project “will make the Human Genome Project look like homework that 15th century kids did with an abacus.” It will almost certainly also lead to some awkward conversations with our parents.