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'Experiment of nature' examines how mother's diet may impact on child's health
Date:2/22/2009

ffect methylation, such as folate and choline, and some B vitamins which are essential co-factors in methylation. They will compare these to levels of the nutrients in the women's blood and once the children have been born, the researchers will measure methylation patterns of the babies' DNA. This will help the researchers assess whether there is a correlation between the mother's diet and her nutritional status, and whether there are differences in methylation patterns in babies conceived during the harvest or hungry seasons.

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
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Contact: Craig Brierley
c.brierley@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-7329
Wellcome Trust
Source:Eurekalert

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