Epigenetics: Environment’s Impact on Genes and Generations

epigenetics parents and child
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Two recent, compelling studies have underlined the role of epigenetics in the health of families, and of societies in general.

The most recent study shows that a mother and father’s own prenatal environments have a detectable impact on their children’s weight. Mothers who were malnourished in the womb tend to produce smaller babies themselves, while a father’s malnourishment in utero results in his offspring being smaller by the time they are 2 years old.

A Max-Planck Institute study, in summary, states:

“We are more than the sum of our genes. Epigenetic mechanisms modulated by environmental cues such as diet, disease or our lifestyle take a major role in regulating the DNA by switching genes on and off. It has been long debated if epigenetic modifications accumulated throughout the entire life can cross the border of generations and be inherited to children or even grand-children. Now researchers show robust evidence that not only the inherited DNA itself but also the inherited epigenetic instructions contribute in regulating gene expression in the offspring.”

The importance of the pre-conception diet and lifestyle

A study supported by the Mother and Child Foundation has pinpointed the importance of maternal health and nutrition, both before and during pregnancy. Our latest research suggests that the outcome of pregnancy is mainly decided before conception.

This does not mean that good health and Honutrition has no impact during pregnancy. What it does mean is that the principal biological decisions regarding pregnancy outcome are all down to maternal health and nutrition in the months leading to conception. This evidence makes common sense and has great public health implications.

Professor Michael Crawford presented the results of this study at the recent International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR) conference.

“It received a standing ovation, which I have never had before nor actually seen at a science conference”, commented Michael after the event. “It shows the message is getting through!”

The Mother and Child Foundation is currently fundraising to continue its research in this vital area.

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