Nutrition Before Pregnancy May Impact Offspring


According to a study by Mihai Niculescu, M.D., Ph.D., from the Nutrition Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, what a woman eats before she becomes pregnant may have a major impact on her children.

Her research, carried out in mice and published in the FASEB Journal, found that a female's diet prior to pregnancy can make chemical alterations to her DNA that she can pass along to her offspring. Known as epigenetic changes, these modifications can affect metabolism of fatty acids in offspring and lead to a variety of health problems including diabetes and cancer.

"As parents, we have to understand better that our responsibilities to our children are not only of a social, economical, or educational nature," wrote Dr. Niculescu, "but that our own biological status can contribute to the fate of our children, and this effect can be long-lasting."

To conduct the study, Dr. Niculescu created two arms among mice prior to them becoming pregnant. One arm was a control with a controlled diet, the other with a diet low in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Caloric intake between the two arms remained equal but the kinds of fats ingested changed. Male breeders were all kept on the same controlled diet.

Following delivery, the pups were divided into two smaller groups, in which one group received a diet supplemented with flaxseed oil and the other group received an unchanged diet.

By examining polyunsaturated fatty acid levels (PUFA) in the blood and liver, along with the DNA methylation of the gene known as Fads2 which controls PUFA metabolism, they were able to determine that flaxseed oil produced a change in the chemical alteration in the Fads2 gene--this change occurred in both moms and their offspring. Adding flaxseed oil clearly expanded the methylation of this gene, resulting in decreased activation of the gene in the offspring.

The conclusion is that offspring inherit this epigenetic change from their mothers, adding to the growing body of evidence that a woman's diet can have profound effects on the DNA of her offspring, and this should encourage more study in this emerging field of research.

Source: Medical News Today


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