News / Health

Study: Mother’s Diet Before Conception Can Alter Child's Genes, Affect Health

FILE - Mariama Diokh throws salt onto a pile while her 5-month-old infant sits nearby on the Senegal coast close to the Gambian border, June 2006.
FILE - Mariama Diokh throws salt onto a pile while her 5-month-old infant sits nearby on the Senegal coast close to the Gambian border, June 2006.
Jennifer Lazuta
A mother’s diet before conception can alter her child’s genes permanently, potentially making them more prone to lifelong health problems, researchers found in a study published Tuesday in the online science journal Nature Communications.

The children of women who conceived during Gambia’s lean season had different genetic markers on their DNA compared to the children of women who conceived during the harvest season, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reported.

Andrew Prentice, director of the MRC International Nutrition Group and one of the authors of the study, explained.

“I think everybody understands that we inherit our genes from our parents and that those are the main ways in which we resemble our parents and we inherit the characteristics they had," he said. "What fewer people know is that those genes can actually be altered and they can be altered by several processes, which are very complicated and not yet fully understood, but one of these involves adding little markers onto the genes, which can switch some genes on or turn them off."

Prentice and his colleagues studied how diet affects which genes are turned on or off by comparing two groups of women in rural Gambia: one that conceived during the dry season, when food is lacking in both quantity and quality, and one that conceived during the rainy season, when mothers have access to more protein and high-energy meals.

The researchers followed more than 2,000 women across 34 villages between July 2009 and July 2011.

Each time a woman gave birth, the researchers measured the markers on the baby's genes.

“To our great surprise, we found very strong effects in the different levels of markings, according to whether the babies had been conceived in the dry season or the rainy season. ... So what this tells us is that a mother’s diet in preparation for pregnancy or right at the moment of conception is highly crucial to how these genes are marked and that this almost inevitably will have lasting effects on their baby’s health,” Prentice said.

Researchers do not know precisely what the affected genes are responsible for, but are believed to determine susceptibility to cancer later in life, as well as weight gain and obesity, and the probability of dying from infectious diseases as a young adult.

In addition to folic acid, which has already been shown to help the development of babies, the study concluded vitamin B and a chemical compound known as choline, which is found in eggs and certain animal products, are necessary to achieving the “good” markings on the genes and improving the long-term health of a child.

Senior author Branwen Hennig, senior investigator scientist with MRC in Gambia, said: "Our results represent the first demonstration in humans that a mother's nutritional well-being at the time of conception can change how her child's genes will be interpreted, with a life-long impact."
 
Prentice said, “Our ultimate goal is to define an optimal diet for mothers-to-be. ... Preconceptional folic acid is already used to prevent defects in embryos. Now our research is pointing towards the need for a cocktail of nutrients, which could come from the diet or from supplements.”

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid