Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, say pre-conception diet is ‘crucial’. Study author, Professor Andrew Prentice said, ‘The potential implications are enormous.’ Colleague Dr Matt Silver said, ‘It’s about not just starting to behave yourself once you know you are pregnant.’ Nutrients which are known to be involved in setting the marks are vitamin B2, methionine, dimethyl glycine and folic acid. Good sources include eggs, fish, beans, grains, liver and leafy green vegetables, Dr Silver said.
A study was conducted on 120 women, in the rural West Africa, where diets change between the wet and dry seasons. Half of the group conceived at the peak of the dry season and the other half at the height of the wet season. The researchers measured the nutrients in the blood of the women who had shortly entered into their pregnancy.
When their children were born, their DNA was analysed. The study looked at its epigenetic modifications or ‘marks’, that shows how and when a gene becomes active. One gene, named VTRNA2-1, the marks are set in the first few days of life, was extra-active in babies conceived in the dry season.
In its highly-active state, the gene protects against cancer. When it is less active, the body finds it easier to ward off viruses, from flu and tummy bugs to HIV.