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September 19, 2008

Prenatal maternal diet affects asthma risk in offspring

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests that a mother's use of folic acid supplements during pregnancy may contribute to development of asthma in her children. This was a mouse study that sought to test the notion that changes in the mother's diet could cause "changes in DNA methylation resulting in aberrant gene transcription" resulting in development of allergic airway disease in the child.

Here's how HealthDay describes the study:

The study, by researchers at National Jewish Health and Duke University, found that pregnant mice fed diets high in supplements containing methyl-donors (folic acid, L-methionine, choline and genistein) had babies with more severe allergic airway disease than mice born to mothers that consumed diets low in methyl-containing foods.

The mice born to mothers fed high methyl-donor diets had greater asthma severity, more airway hyperactivity, more allergic inflammation in the airways, higher levels of IgE in their blood, and their immune system T-cells were more likely to be the type associated with allergy. Male offspring also transmitted a higher predisposition to allergy airway disease to their pups.

The current issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation also includes an editorial, Prenatal maternal diet affects asthma risk in offspring, by Rachel L. Miller:

. . .One cannot ignore the observation that the increase in asthma prevalence over recent decades approximately coincides with worldwide campaigns that recommend periconceptional dietary folate supplementation. From a public health perspective, the adverse nonrespiratory health consequences of insufficient prenatal folate consumption are legitimate concerns. But an even broader public health issue has surfaced. If confirmed, prenatal exposures may influence the development of asthma not only for our children, but for their children as well.

Here is the study: In utero supplementation with methyl donors enhances allergic airway disease in mice, by John W. Hollingsworth, Shuichiro Maruoka, Kathy Boon, Stavros Garantziotis, Zhuowei Li, John Tomfohr, Nathaniel Bailey, Erin N. Potts, Gregory Whitehead, David M. Brass and David A. Schwartz.

In 1996, the FDA required folate fortification of many flours and flour products in order to prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects:

In keeping with the recommendations of PHS and the FDA Food Advisory Committee called to study these issues, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring that folic acid be added to specific flour, breads and other grains. These foods were chosen for fortification with folate because they are staple products for most of the U.S. population, and because they have a long history of being successful vehicles for improving nutrition to reduce the risk of classic nutrient deficiency diseases.

These fortified foods include most enriched breads, flours, corn meals, rice, noodles, macaroni and other grain products.

[For what it's worth, I refused to take folic acid supplements, but I made sure I got the full RDA by eating fortified cereal while I was pregnant.  My kids both had childhood asthma (but then, I have asthma too).]  DMB

September 19, 2008 in Children, Ingredients, nutrition policy, Scientific studies, supplements | Permalink

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Comments

Yeah, its true, maternal diet affects asthma risk in offspring. Thanks for such an informative post, i can use this informations.

-Keith

Posted by: new york city allergy doctor | Oct 25, 2009 4:10:38 AM

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