Diet During Pregnancy Can Alter Baby’s DNA
We all know that eating healthy during pregnancy is important, and that how we eat during those nine months can have an effect on our child’s long-term health. But now a report issued by scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine links what a mom is eating before she conceives and at the time of conception to altering a baby’s genes permanently.
The study was published in Nature Communications and is the first such study to connect environmental factors during the first few days of development and long-term changes in DNA. The research did not study how these genetic changes influence overall fetal development or the baby’s health later in life. Instead, research studied the umbilical cord tissue from 237 individuals and analyzed six genes and their interaction between prenatal environment.
The findings of this research, along with evidence gathered through other studies which have shown similar types of genetic changes, may be used in the future to determine a child’s risk for some diseases including autism, diabetes, and mental disorders.
I had actually seen a man talking on one of the morning talk shows about how we may be able to insert a gene to correct some of these issues in the future. I’m not really in favor of inserting foreign genes into a child…at least not at the moment. It smells too much like genetic engineering.
This study isn’t talking about doing that. It’s just looking at the building blocks of genes and whether they are turned on or off in the earliest stages of pregnancy. According to the findings of this study, how moms ate during these early stages made a difference in the micronutrients in the blood stream.
While the research teams couldn’t pinpoint which micronutrients were most important, they did find that when several of these nutrients, including vitamin B2 were lower, the six genes being looked at had less methylation.
Why is this important? DNA methylation is vital to healthy growth and development. It plays a role in genomic imprinting, carcinogenesis and the inhibition of repetitive elements. It also enables the expression of potentially dangerous sequences of DNA to be suppressed.
Now as a mom of a child who has learning challenges, it makes me wonder if I could have done something differently. But as soon as I thought it, I let it go. The past is the past, and I can’t change that. However, for all those out there thinking of getting pregnant, instead of thinking of eating for two, think about eating for the one who is developing! It may make a life-long difference.
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