SCIENCE: Birth Month-Related Diseases

By: Shinelle Black

    Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a land filled with streets of candy, fountains of chocolate. Now imagine one made of broccoli and celery sticks. Which side would you choose? Contrary to what you might believe, a large majority of the American population would choose to indulge in the green goodness of the earth. The reason behind this decision is quite simple: it is what we are taught from birth. Our parents tell us that exercise and a healthy diet help us prevent certain diseases. But what if there was another factor contributing to our lifespan, one that neither you nor I could dictate.

    Nicholas Tatonetti, a scientist at Columbia University Medical Center, has an interesting, unique area of study. His research question might surprise you, “Does the month you are born in affect your chances of certain diseases?” The question has one factor we can all agree on: the answer is complex and the logic behind the reasoning could be based on raw chance alone. Whether Tatonetti’s research conclusions are valid is debatable, but it seems that media companies and health magazines have taken advantage of the researcher’s findings. Time, on June 8, 2015 published an issue with an attached diagram.

    Before I allow you to form your own hypothesis based on the ongoing observational experiment, l would like to share with you the conclusions of Tatonetti’s experiments and other researchers investigating this correlation. In the peak of the summer the Journal of American Informatics Association published Tatonetti and his teams research findings based on a fourteen year old collection of data. The study is described as one with “results that are pretty eye-opening.” If you are scared of death, then I suggest you continue reading, thus you can know the precautions you should take to prevent the diseases you are supposedly at risk of contracting.  

    The experiment conducted at Columbia Medical Center, evaluated a total of one thousand six hundred and eighty-eight different diseases and a total of fifty-five, including asthma and heart disease (the number one cause of death on a global scale) was linked directly to a certain month. Prior to Tatonetti’s study being published, “earlier studies, for example, had connected birth in late summer or fall with asthma or respiratory problems,” according to Time.

    Tatonetti’s investigation supports this theory. According to his research, a majority of patients born in September were at a large risk of developing asthma during their lifespan. This conclusion cannot only be supported by statistical evidence but also by logic. Mothers pregnant during the winter season tend to contract the flu or other respiratory infections, increasing the risk that their babies born in summer will develop diseases that affect normal breathing. In addition the study suggests that men and women born in spring are at a higher risk of heart disease in the northern hemisphere. Of the patients who participated in the study, those at the highest risk of congestive cardiac failure were born in March, as well as patients with high risks of atrial fibrillation.

    Although Tatonetti tells his audience that “It’s important not to get overly nervous about these results because even though we found significant associations the overall disease risk is not that great,’” many people are already scared — unless you were born in October. October, closely followed by November, is the month with the least associated diseases.

    Personally I am a Valentine’s Day baby, and I was terrified to learn that I could be at risk for heart disease while sitting on my patio eating a burger.  

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