Epigenetic inheritance, especially transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, is an important topic in epigenetic research. Do we pass down epigenetic marks to our children as a result of our lifestyle or behavior? Can this occur even long before conception and during pregnancy? Epigenetic studies suggest that the actions of a future mother or father can have long-lasting health effects on their children for years to come.
Studies show that certain DNA methylation marks can survive genome-wide reprogramming and be inherited. For example, a father’s exposure to phthalates could adjust epigenetic marks on sperm DNA and impact a couples’ ability to have children. A father’s diet and supplement intake could also influence his child’s mental fitness.
Mothers can influence epigenetic marks on their offspring’s DNA as well, changing how their baby will react to stress, whether or not they grow up healthy, and their ability to learn, remember and adapt as adults. The Mediterranean diet during pregnancy was shown to epigenetically reduce a child’s risk of disease.
Explore the ways in which lifestyle and habits of a mother and father – and potentially even grandparents or great-grandparents – may influence the epigenetic marks and health of later generations via epigenetic inheritance.
Check out our comprehensive e-book Epigenetics in Life: What We Eat to learn more about how different foods influence health.
Our understanding of early development and its importance for lifelong health is constantly evolving, thanks in part to the growing field of epigenetics. We now know that parents pass along more than just their genes – they also transmit molecular mechanisms that control how genes are expressed. These epigenetic gene regulators help ensure the normal development of a child. However, only a few genes in our genome carry the epigenetic data of our parents. These “imprinted genes” are either expressed [more…]
Children are a blend of both their parent’s genes, but not necessarily in an equal way. Some genes inherited from either the father or mother are epigenetically marked with information that causes them to be inactive. This phenomenon is known as genomic imprinting and, although normal, could lead to disease if combined with mutations. For the most part, we acquire two working copies of each gene – one from our dad and one from our mom. Although in genomic imprinting, [more…]
“Nature vs. nurture” is an argument as old as time, and understanding how “nature” is expressed and how “nurture” carries lasting effects in individuals is important in determining health outcomes later in life, especially when it comes to the bond shared between a mother and her child. As we know, when a mother breastfeeds her child, she provides the baby with antibodies and nutrients to help ensure a healthy immune system, as well as other positive health benefits. A mother [more…]
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has helped millions of families give birth to babies furthering their own genetic lineage, using methods that range from in vitro fertilization through the cryopreservation of gametes. Of course, given the opportunity for errors and the manmade nature of this process, safety is one concern—and yet, as scientist Boris Novakovic notes, “Previous studies have found some epigenetic changes in embryos grown in labs. However, no study has looked for these changes in the same individuals at [more…]
It’s been said before that health begins in the womb. That’s because the conditions we encounter in utero impact not only our well-being in infancy but throughout our entire lives. But what happens when the nutritional environment in the womb is less than favorable? Most epigenetic studies have suggested that embryos respond to adverse environmental conditions by adjusting their gene expression. However, new research proposes something entirely different may occur. Instead of adapting to the environment, random variations in gene [more…]
Many people believe that breastfeeding is the best gift a mother can offer to her child. It has lots of benefits, not only because breast milk contains the right amount of nutrients, but also because it’s packed with lots of antibodies and biologically active compounds that play a key role in boosting a baby’s immune system. We have already seen how maternal nutrition and lifestyle can shape the development and future health of a baby via epigenetic mechanisms. Among many [more…]
DNA is the blueprint from which most living organisms are built. It makes up the genes that carry the distinctive characteristics and information that determine physical appearance and health, and it makes everybody unique. At the beginning of life, human embryos inherit genes from both their mother and father, and although the actual genes cannot be altered, the way they are expressed can be influenced by epigenetics. Parents can have a huge epigenetic influence on the development of an embryo [more…]
Have you ever heard the old saying “you are what you eat?” This is not just an expression anymore, as scientists have discovered that we are what we eat and possibly even what our parents or grandparents ate. As surprising as it sounds, a pregnant woman’s diet and lifestyle, as well as the diet of an infant in his or her first years of life, may shape the child’s lifelong health or cause them to be more disease prone, not [more…]
When it comes to reproductive health, it’s no secret that a pregnant mother’s choices and environment can severely impact her child’s epigenetics and health—especially mothers suffering from PTSD. But it turns out fathers who have suffered significant stress early on in their life may also epigenetically impact the physical and mental health of their offspring. It was previously thought that fathers only passed DNA to the mother’s egg during fertilization, but it was recently discovered that sperm also contributes miRNA, [more…]
Exercising your body and your brain are two ways to improve your own health. It’s well known that physical and mental activity can boost learning ability and reduce risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. But, could doing so also directly benefit your future children? New research in Cell Reports indicates that a child’s capacity for learning could actually be boosted as a result of the physical and mental exercise that their parents carried out before they were born. Researchers are [more…]