This week’s topic is on how our lifestyle choices affect our children. Specifically, I will focus on nutrition and environmental exposures. I have discussed the role of epigenetics and nutrigenomics in the past. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what I am speaking of, they are the scientific terms that explain how our environment and nutritional status effect how our genes express themselves. This means that if one has a healthy diet or is conscious of environmental exposures, they will less likely turn on “genetic switches” that lead to diseases.
Passing On Epigenetics
A recent rodent study using mice showed that cells could directly transfer information into sperm cells and carry that information to the offspring! This flies in the face of conventional understanding of genetics, in which it is believed that traits are inherited only through sperm and egg (germline) cells verses through bodily (somatic) cells.
According to Sayer Ji from GreenMedInfo the implications of this study are wide ranging:
First, if your somatic cells, which are continually affected by your nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and even mind-body processes, can transfer genetic information through exosomes to the DNA within your germline cells, then your moment-to-moment decisions, behaviors, experiences, toxin and toxicant exposures, could theoretically affect the biological ‘destinies’ of your offspring, and their offspring, stretching on into the distant future.
Exosome research also opens up promising possibilities in the realm of nutrigenomics and ‘food as medicine.’ (1-2)
Below are some more examples of how future generations are impacted by our lifestyle decisions:
Mom’s Nutritional Status and Baby
1. The Role of Nutrient Intake in Mom and Asthma
According to the American Thoracic Society International Conference abstracts, intake of dietary prenatal folate and other methyl donors in first trimester of pregnancy can affect asthma risk in children at age 7. (3)
There’s a caveat here. Some people with specific variations may not be able to process excess methyl donors. If you want to learn more, I discussed this topic along with genetic variances in enzymes, such as the most well-known MTHFR single nucleotide polymorphism, on my homepage blog this week.
2. Iodine Supplementation and Pregnant Women
According to a release in late May by Reuter’s:
Pregnant women should take an iodide-containing supplement to protect the brain development of their babies, according to the leading U.S. group of pediatricians.
Iodine, which the body can get from iodide, is needed to make the thyroid hormones that are required for children’s brain development before and after birth.
Recommendations for iodine were published in the journal, Pediatrics, and the council indicated that one-third of the pregnant women in the U.S. are marginally iodine deficient.
One suggestion from the council included 290 micrograms of iodide per day for pregnant and breastfeeding women which was according to the American Thyroid Association and the National Academy of Sciences.
It was suggested that breastfeeding moms also get least 150 micrograms of iodide and use iodized table salt. (4)
Epigenetic Changes with Environmental Exposure
According to the Environmental Working Group, as reported by Dr. Mercola, chemical exposures in adulthood which negatively impact health status could be passed to babies and cause many adverse effects through this “epigenetic inheritance”. (5) Studies have linked environmental exposure to autism risk (6) and acetaminophen use during pregnancy to ADHD. (7)
Counseling on Environmental Toxins
With the known risk of women’s environmental exposures upon their babies, you’d think more doctors would be counseling pregnant women to avoid known toxins. However, according to a new survey, only about half of obstetricians take an environmental health history and less than 20% ask about common environmental exposures in pregnant women. (8-9)
Children are more at risk due to their greater exposure per body weight, immature blood-brain barrier, and lower levels of chemical binding proteins. (10)
An Environmental Exposure to Avoid for Kids- Spray Sunscreens
According to Huffington Post:
The Food and Drug Administration announced their investigation of spray sunscreen safety in 2011, but have yet to release a verdict. However, Consumer Reports recently issued a warning against the sprays that advises parents to stay away from using them on children. (11)
Some Quick Tips On Optimizing Epigenetic Inheritance:
- Search the Environmental Group’s Skin Deep Database and choose organic and safe
personal care and cleaning products.
- Eat organic and nutritious foods to avoid exposure to GMOs, pesticides,
herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics.
- Diffuse therapeutic grade essential oils in your home to neutralize
- Optimize nutritional status prenatal and postnatal of mom and dad with
individualized functional or naturopathic medicine consultations.
1. Ji, S. No Sex Required: Body Cells Transfer Genetic Info Directly Into Sperm Cells, Amazing Study Finds. GreenMedInfo.com. July 7, 2014.
2. Soma-to-Germline Transmission of RNA in Mice Xenografted with Human Tumour Cells: Possible Transport by Exosomes. PLoS One. 2014 ;9(7):e101629. Epub 2014 Jul 3. PMID: 24992257
3. Maternal Intake Of Dietary Methyl Donors In Pregnancy And Childhood Asthma At 7 Years.
4. Seaman, R. Pregnant women should take iodide supplement: docs. Reuters.com. May 26, 2014.
5. Mercola, J. Doctors Lack Tools to Discuss Toxic Exposures with Pregnant Patients: Survey. mercola.com. July 9, 2014.
6. Environmental and State-Level Regulatory Factors Affect the Incidence of Autism and Intellectual Disability. PLOSone. March 13, 2014. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003518
7. Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy, Behavioral Problems, and Hyperkinetic Disorders. JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(4):313-320. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4914
8. Mercola, J. Doctors Lack Tools to Discuss Toxic Exposures with Pregnant Patients: Survey. mercola.com. July 9, 2014.
9. Counseling patients on preventing prenatal environmental exposures – a mixed-methods study of obstetricians. PLoS One. 2014 Jun 25;9(6):e98771. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098771. eCollection 2014.
10. Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns: Human health problems on the rise. EWG.org. July 14, 2005
11. Velez, M. Consumer Reports Advises Against Using Spray Sunscreen On Kids While FDA Investigates. The Huffington Post. July 7, 2014.