Gene Control

News Note

By Lara Evans Bracciante

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, February/March 2004.

Doctors have long known that proper nutrition is important for pregnant mothers but, until a recent study published in Molecular and Cellular Biology, they didn’t know exactly why. Turns out, a vitamin-rich diet for pregnant women can actually turn off disease-causing genes in their unborn children. Researches used a strain of mice with a genetic trigger that causes a yellow coat and makes them predisposed to obesity, diabetes and cancer. When mice were given extra vitamin B12, folic acid, choline and betaine from sugar beets beginning just before pregnancy through weaning, the gene was deactivated and the offspring were born and grew up brown, lean and disease-free.

While the authors of the study are cautious, they agree that future mothers who ensure a nutrient-rich diet could potentially reduce the risk of obesity and cancer in their unborn children. Because the research shows a direct correlation between a mother’s diet and the manifestation of her baby’s genetic make-up, it leaves scientists pondering the effects of a fat-filled, sugary, processed American diet.