Variations in maternal diet at the time of conception affect DNA methylation at specific genes in offspring reports a study in Nature Communications this week. This indicates that a mother’s diet causes persistent changes of the DNA of her children, which could, in theory, influence their development.
Branwen Hennig, Robert Waterland and colleagues studied women in rural Gambia who encounter extreme differences in diet throughout the year caused by climate changes during rainy and dry seasons. They find that infants conceived by these women during the rainy season have higher methylation levels in all six genes studied than those infants conceived in dry season. They show that this pattern can be predicted using biomarkers detected in the mother’s blood that was collected around the time of conception.
While this study determines that DNA modifications in offspring do occur due to maternal diet, further research will be required to establish whether these changes translate to long-term effects on children’s health and well-being.