If a mother's diet does affect her offspring's methylation patterns, this could prove very important as epigenetic changes mediated by DNA methylation are likely to have long term effects on the health and physical characteristics of offspring. Animal studies have shown that supplementing the diet of pregnant mice can lead to very marked differences in their offspring with mice fed a folate-depleted diet producing litter with different coat colour or "kinked" tails compared to those fed a diet rich in folate.
"Alterations in DNA methylation are thought to increase the risk of a child developing chronic conditions later in life, such as cardiovascular disease, cancers and type II diabetes," says Dr Hennig. "We think these epigenetic changes are established very early on in the womb."
This will be the first time that the effects of a mother's diet on epigenetic alterations of her children will be studied so extensively. A study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at the effect of wartime blockades in the Netherlands on the nutritional intake of mothers and whether this affected their children's expression of the IGF2 gene, which is involved in growth, as adults. It found that the IGF2 gene had 5 per cent fewer methyl caps in "famine babies" than in their siblings born outside this period. However, the study by Dr Hennig and colleagues will enable the researchers to ac
|Contact: Craig Brierley|