Epigenetics and Nutrition

Posted by Vaishnavi C on

Epigenetics in simple words is what we inherit from our parents, grandparents etc. It explains how the experiences of the previous generations can affect who we are.


How does this have any relation to pregnancy and Nutrition during pregnancy?

The intergenerational effect talks about how what a mother eats or does during pregnancy, can affect even future generations. So a child’s health depends on not only potentially what the mother ate, but possible even what the grandmother ate.

Nutritional epigenetics has been viewed as an attractive tool to prevent pediatric developmental diseases and cancer as well as to delay aging-associated processes. In recent years, epigenetics has become an emerging issue in a broad range of diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, inflammation, and neurocognitive disorders.

The eating habits of the past generations can greatly affect the future generations. Not just food, even alcohol, use of any other drug can express itself in generations to come. It is extremely important for the Mother to take extra care of her lifestyle in order to make sure the baby is healthy.

Frequent consumption of alcohol can lead to the infant developing Fetal alcohol Spectrum Disorder characterized by many deformities and impaired mental growth. Similarly, Drugs can also affect the behaviour and thinking abilities of the future generations.

Even specific foods have been linked to reduced risk of cancer development because of their epigenetic effects. One example is green tea polyphenols, whose consumption has been shown to decrease the risk of certain cancers like breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic, among others. Polyphenols can be found in green tea and other plant-based foods. Another example is resveratrol, which is found in foods like red grapes and blueberries. Research shows that resveratrol has epigenetic effects that promote DNA methylation and decreased tumor cell growth.

The Dutch Hunger Winter is a classically cited example which occurred when women who were pregnant in the Netherlands during World War II had decreased food intake because of the German occupancy, causing the women to be malnourished. The children born to these women were more likely to have chronic diseases like depression and diabetes, demonstrating the great effect that the diet of a pregnant mother has on the expression of genes in her offspring.

By being conscious of what you put in and on your body, you have the ability to affect your likelihood of disease outcome later in life.

Make your environment one that promotes health and wellness, and your food can, in the end, save the day once more.

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