A pregnant woman is often told that what she eats will affect the health of her unborn child. Now there is evidence that her diet before pregnancy could be just as important. In fact, a recent study shows that a mother's pre-pregnancy nutritional status may permanently affect certain aspects of her child's DNA. And some of these genetic changes may determine that child's risk for diseases, including diabetes, mental disorders and autism.
While a child's genes are inherited directly from his or her parents, how these genes are expressed is controlled through 'epigenetic' modifications to the DNA, such as smoking, diet and environmental toxins. Experiments in animals have already shown that environmental influences before conception can lead to epigenetic changes that affect the offspring. But until this latest research, it was unknown whether such effects also occur in humans.
The researchers found that when several B vitamins and other nutrients in the mother's blood were low, there was decreased function of some important genetic pathways. What was really interesting was that these vitamin levels were not way out of the normal range, which underlines the need for optimal -- not just adequate -- levels of many nutrients in the pre-conception stage of a woman's life. They also found a link between increased body mass in the mother and negative effects on DNA in the child.
This is compelling support for couples to take time before conceiving to optimize their health as much as possible. Our Pre-Conception Optimization Program (POP) offers the perfect opportunity to do just that. Appropriate oral and intravenous nutrient supplementation, based on specialized laboratory testing, can make invaluable improvements to the health of both the mother and her baby-to-be. What better investment can we make in our children's future?