DNA, Diet and Pregnancy

Pregnancy Dieting Issues

Diet can affect a child’s DNA during early pregnancy.

Most people understand that food nourishes the body. Each and every nutrient is used in some way for building and maintaining every cell in the body. That being said, diet can actually influence the structure of the DNA that is stored in those cells. The most permeable time for genes to be influenced is during pregnancy and conception. So, a mother’s diet before, during and after conception can permanently alter the baby’s genes.

Diet and Pregnancy Study

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine recently reported this finding. Their study involved two groups of 84 women living in the rural Gambia. There, the population relies on their gardens for most of their food, which is ultimately dependent on the weather. The first group of women conceived during the dry season, when their diet was higher in calories but lower in nutrients. The second group conceived during the wet season, when weather permitted nutrient-dense foods that were lower in calories.Over the course of their study, the scientists tested nutrient levels of the women by taking blood samples. They sampled the DNA of the babies two to eight months after they were born. The results showed obvious differences, called mutations, in the way six different genes functioned. These mutations are called “epigenetic effects.” The genes were either turned “on or off,” during the embryonic stage of development.As a sort of metabolic process, methyl groups attach to DNA, and this is called methylation. Depending on whether the gene is “on,” methylation is increased; if the gene is “off,” methylation is decreased. In other words, the more nutrients the Gambian mothers ate during the rainy season, the lesser amounts of gene mutations occurred in the six genes the babies had. The lower the nutrients, the more gene mutations occurred in the baby.The researchers concluded that a properly balanced diet during the time of conception must be struck for the healthy genetic function of the baby. This should come as no surprise, since, in terms of nutrition, food is regarded as healthy according to the level of nutrients that the body needs. It is not simply fuel like gasoline is to a car. Food is the essence of health, and it can either harm or it can heal.

To dig a little deeper, certain gene mutations that govern the methylation process have a direct impact on the long-standing health of the individual. The researchers haven’t actually followed up on the babies whose DNA had been tested, so it is still too early to say exactly what repercussions this is proven to have. It is known, however, that higher methylation means less chemical metabolism. The genes have a tendency to go on overdrive and skip over the processing of certain chemicals, resulting in an imbalance.

he imbalances can mean a variety of things depending on the exact gene mutation. Excessive levels of neuro-toxins can be unprocessed and stuck circulating throughout the body, resulting in any number of toxic reactions or neurological disorders. These types of mutations have been linked to autism, ADD, ADHD, digestive disorders, muscle weakness or severe chemical intolerance.

What the researchers have discovered is that the diet around the time of conception is a critical period for the development of the baby. Even though only six genes were actually studied, it opens up a Pandora’s box. A box not of questions, but of possibilities. The goal is to prevent gene mutations where it is possible and to help and teach mothers that they can avoid future problems by using an intentional diet for the health of their baby.

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  1. shenwil November 27, 2015

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