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.

Molecular Memory and a Two-Step Process of Epigenetic Inheritance

August 13, 2014 Bailey Kirkpatrick

New evidence supports the epigenetic mechanism by which acquired traits may be inherited. The research found that cells silence genes by recognizing chemical tags or marks that are passed down through the generations rather than using information from the hardwired DNA sequences. The chemical tags on the DNA act as a molecular memory which is used by cells to recognize and then silence certain genes in successive generations. The research, conducted by scientists at Indiana University, illustrates how plant cells [more…]

Epigenetic Transfer of Nutrition ‘Memory’ Ends Before Great-Grandchildren

July 17, 2014 Bailey Kirkpatrick

A child is at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and obesity if his or her mother was undernourished during pregnancy. This risk is caused in part by epigenetic changes thought to persist through generations, but it’s uncertain at which generation these changes stop affecting offspring. Researchers at University of Cambridge give us insight into the temporality of this epigenetic “memory” of nutrition using a mouse model and demonstrate its persistence in mice sperm. In a study published [more…]

Delivery by Cesaerian Section Linked to Epigenetic Changes in Infant’s Blood Stem Cells

July 9, 2014 Bailey Kirkpatrick

The way a baby is delivered may epigenetically impact stem cells of the infant, according to a new study at Karolinska Institutet. Their findings could help scientists understand the differences between various modes of delivery, for example, why babies delivered via cesarean section are statistically more susceptible to immunological diseases. It’s still uncertain whether this epigenetic mechanism is long-term or temporary. Women are now more than ever electing to give birth by cesarean section, the most popular surgical procedure in [more…]

Dad’s Drinking Could Epigenetically Affect Son’s Sensitivity and Preference for Alcohol

June 18, 2014 Bailey Kirkpatrick

According to a new study from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, a father’s excessive drinking behavior could set up his son for , even before conception. Results published in PLOS ONE demonstrate that mice show more sensitivity to alcohol’s effects and are less likely to drink it if their fathers were chronically exposed to the substance before mating. This recent animal study adds to the evidence linking heredity and the propensity for alcohol abuse. Previous studies support the inheritance of [more…]

4 Things You’re Forgetting to Thank Mom For This Mother’s Day

May 8, 2014 Bailey Kirkpatrick

We all know the deal by now: On Mother’s Day we should show appreciation for the years our moms spent raising us, for the years she worked patiently to bestow on us the skills we didn’t even know (or maybe refused to believe) we needed to succeed in life. A lot of the things she did for us are easy to give thanks for because we’ve experienced them first-hand throughout our childhood: reassuring words of wisdom, hot meals on the [more…]

Genotype and Womb Environment Epigenetically Influence Babies’ Development

May 6, 2014 Bailey Kirkpatrick

A multitude of studies support that the quality of a child’s environment in the womb significantly influences health and development over his or her lifetime. Scientists at the University of Southampton, UK and National University of Singapore have analyzed epigenetic marks on DNA in order to determine how much a baby’s development in the womb is dictated by his or her genotype compared to the mother’s mental and physical health. In the study published in Genome Research, scientists used samples [more…]

A Father’s Stress Felt for Generations

April 23, 2014 Bailey Kirkpatrick

New scientific research suggests that the negative effects of trauma can be inherited. Fathers may actually transfer the consequences of their early experiences to their children via an epigenetic process. Researchers report that mice that experienced stress early on passed down the negative consequences – depression, underestimation of risk, and upset of metabolism – to their offspring, even if their offspring were not directly exposed to stress or trauma. In a recent study, Isabelle Mansuy and her colleagues at the [more…]

DNA Methylation Patterns May Be Associated With Birth Weight Outcomes

March 21, 2014 Milka Rodriguez

We are well aware that environmental factors such as smoking, drinking and diet can affect fetal development; however, we do not have a clear understanding of the epigenetic factors that may be involved in this process. A new study now shows that epigenetics may also be involved in fetal growth – in particular birth weight. The scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a study which examined the relationship between CpG-specific cord blood DNA methylation and [more…]

Our Parents’ Lives Could Influence Memories Through Epigenetics

January 7, 2014 WhatIsEpigenetics

The scientists at Emory University School of Medicine showed new evidence that our parents’ behaviors before we are born may have a bigger influence on us than we previously imagined, although we know our parents have a big impact on our lives. The scientists used olfactory molecular specificity to examine the inheritance of parental traumatic exposure, a phenomenon that has been frequently observed, but not understood. They subjected F0 mice to odor fear conditioning before conception and found that subsequently [more…]

Folate Deficiency in a Father’s Diet Could Cause Negative Pregnancy Outcomes by Changing Sperm Epigenome

December 18, 2013 WhatIsEpigenetics

Scientists at McGill University, Canada reported that folate deficiency in a father’s diet could increase birth defects in the offspring by altering sperm epigenome. These defects include craniofacial and musculoskeletal malformations. The scientists fed male mice either a folate-deficient or folate-sufficient diet throughout life and then performed genome-wide DNA methylation analysis and subsequent functional analysis to identify differential methylation in sperm of genes implicated in development, and chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, autism and schizophrenia. They found that >300 [more…]

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