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.

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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