Maternal Nutrition and Epigenetics in Early Life

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There are increasing evidences that prenatal events influencing in utero milieu and fetal development are associated with risk of developing chronic adult conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Epigenetics is one of the potential molecular mechanisms explaining this phenomenon, often called “fetal metabolic programming.” Epigenetics is defined as heritable regulation of DNA transcription that is independent of the DNA sequence and include DNA methylation. In this article, we review recent human studies that investigated associations between epigenetic marks in the offspring and maternal nutritional status, from extreme caloric restriction and nutrients deficiency during pregnancy to maternal obesity and gestational diabetes. Despite human studies being scarce, we are confident that this emerging field will increase our understanding of the biological mechanisms involved in developmental origins of health and adult diseases and inform interventions aimed at primordial prevention of chronic metabolic diseases in future generations.

 

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