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.

A Heart Attack May Leave Long-Lasting Epigenetic Marks on DNA

October 18, 2016 Bailey Kirkpatrick

A heart attack could leave behind more than just physical damage, according to a new study. Suffering from myocardial infarction, or a heart attack, may lead to the storage of epigenetic marks on certain genes. Researchers from Uppsala University reported in Human Molecular Genetics that an epigenetic “memory” of a heart attack may stick around on DNA long after the heart attack occurred. Both the environment and genetics can determine whether someone is more or less susceptible to cardiovascular disease. [more…]

Inherited Epigenetic and Behavioral Consequences of Trauma Could be Reversed

August 16, 2016 Bailey Kirkpatrick

It’s possible that the impact of traumatic experiences may be epigenetically inherited via molecular memory that is passed down through generations. Although still controversial, new research takes this concept a step further and demonstrates that traumatic behavior could be reversed when it would otherwise be inherited. A study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, was conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich and showed that behavioral symptoms associated with trauma in male mice and their offspring can be undone [more…]

Fetal Development Epigenetically Influenced by Exposure to a Widespread Chemical in Plastic

August 9, 2016 Bailey Kirkpatrick

Evidence on the negative impact of the environmentally ubiquitous chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA), continues to mount. Previous research has shown that this endocrine disruptor causes adverse health effects during development and impacts the reproductive system, mimicking estrogen and binding to nuclear estrogen receptors as well as androgen receptors. BPA has been implicated in diseases such as obesity, infertility, endometrial cancer, osteoporosis, endometriosis, diabetes, prostate cancer, neurodegenerative disease and breast cancer. In a new mouse study published in The FASEB Journal, researchers [more…]

Overweight Fathers May Epigenetically Increase Their Daughters’ Risk of Breast Cancer

July 5, 2016 Bailey Kirkpatrick

Although we typically think the mother has a large impact on her child’s health, epigenetic research is beginning to suggest that a father’s behavior may also have a significant amount of influence. Recently, we posted a blog article on the epigenetic influence a father’s lifestyle has on his children, showing that both mothers and fathers contribute to their offspring’s health through epigenetic alterations. Other research has indicated that a father’s diet could impact his sperm epigenome and influence pregnancy outcomes. [more…]

Dad’s Life Experiences May Epigenetically Influence His Children’s Health

May 31, 2016 Bailey Kirkpatrick

Mothers have often – unfortunately and unfairly – had to carry the burden of being “to blame” for any of their child’s health-related shortcomings. When pregnant women are advised: eat more of this but not too much of that, drink this but definitely none of that… why does dad get off scot-free amid these typically well-intentioned suggestions? Previous studies have, for example, epigenetically linked dad’s drinking to his son’s sensitivity and preference for alcohol and connected a father’s diet to [more…]

Maternal Smoking Epigenetically Harms Child Development

April 26, 2016 Bailey Kirkpatrick

Thankfully, smoking is a habit all pregnant women are advised to break. But, surprisingly, this wasn’t always the case, especially in the 1940s and 1950s when doctors endorsed smoking in tobacco advertisements. Tobacco companies even ran ads hinting that pregnant women could smoke as a way to calm their nerves. With the influx of research on the harms of cigarettes, it now seems absurd to think they were ever recommended. A recent study in American Journal of Human Genetics links [more…]

Children of Diabetic Moms May Benefit from the Epigenetic Power of Green Tea

April 19, 2016 Bailey Kirkpatrick

If a mother with diabetes drinks green tea during pregnancy, could it improve her child’s development? For years, pregnant women have been advised to take probiotics and antioxidants, such as folic acid, to help improve pregnancy outcomes. However, the precise way these supplements work continues to be up for debate. Now, epigenetic evidence is mounting in regard to the benefits of certain antioxidants and the potential underlying biological mechanisms. New research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology [more…]

Nicotine Could Cause Epigenetic Changes to Testes and Compromise Fertility

March 29, 2016 Bailey Kirkpatrick

Despite the countless destructive health consequences and carcinogenic properties of cigarette smoke, the CDC estimates that 40 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes. The toxic chemicals are capable of causing damage to nearly every organ in the body and can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer. Researchers continue to add to the large body of evidence of the detrimental effects nicotine exposure has on cellular processes and our health. Now, they’re beginning [more…]

Epigenetics: Feeding the Obesity and Diabetes Epidemic?

March 21, 2016 Bill Sullivan

Every kid reaching for the junk food has heard mom and dad’s warning, “You are what you eat!” But parents should be advised that children can now offer a humbling retort, “No, I’m what YOU ate!” A new study by scientists from the Institute of Experimental Genetics at Helmholtz Zentrum München (Neuherberg, Germany) suggests that the metabolic consequences of mom and dad’s dietary habits can be inherited by their kids via epigenetic mechanisms. So in addition to inheriting a genetic [more…]

Affectionate Moms with Depression May Epigenetically Buffer Their Child from Stress

March 8, 2016 Bailey Kirkpatrick

Different environmental factors experienced by a child can undoubtedly impact their life in the long run. Whether they were born into poverty, lack access to education, or are surrounded by violence, these experiences have the ability to dramatically disrupt their lives if they’re without the right support system. But, could a mother’s exposure to stress impact her child even before he or she is born? And could the way a mother treats her child buffer any adverse impact? Research on [more…]

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