Original Publication Date: >18 November, 2016
Publication / Source: Epigenomics
Authors: Cecil CAM, Walton E & Barker ED
Unhealthy diet during pregnancy is a risk factor for a wide range of negative health and psychiatric outcomes . For example, high-sugar and fat diets associate not only with increased risk for noncommunicable diseases , such as diabetes and obesity, but also for neurodevelopmental disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct problems (CP) . In the nutritional field, epigenetics is an important area of investigation, as nutrients and bioactive compounds can alter the expression of genes at the transcriptional level . Because epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation, can be passed on during cell division and result in long-term phenotypic changes , they also provide a framework for understanding the biological mechanisms through which pre- and post-natal environmental exposures may influence disease vulnerability [6,7].
In a recent paper , we examined how exposure to unhealthy fats (e.g., vegetable oils in fast foods) and sugars (e.g., sweets) might associate with ADHD symptoms in children who follow an early onset (age ≤ 10 years; n = 83) versus low (n = 81) trajectory of CP, via DNA methylation of the IGF2 gene. We focused on IGF2 due to its relevance in metabolic function , placental and fetal growth  and the development of brain regions implicated in ADHD [11–13]. Data were drawn from the Accessible Resource for Integrated Epigenomics Studies , a subsample of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which includes: firstly, maternal reports of diet (32-week gestation, age 3 and 7 years); secondly, peripheral measures of DNA methylation (Illumina 450 k) at birth and age 7 years (n = 671, 49% male) and thirdly, repeated assessments of psychiatric symptomatology, including CP (ages 4–13 years) and ADHD (ages 7–13 years). Below, we summarize our key findings before discussing limitations and future directions.Restricted Content / Members Only
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