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Early nutrition: Impact on epigenetics

Lookup NU author(s): Professor John Mathers


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Background/Aims: (1) To outline the findings that alterations in nutrition in utero and in early postnatal life influence health in later life. (2) To review the evidence that alterations in epigenetic markings may be a means by which the genome records environmental (including nutritional) exposure resulting in changes in gene expression and cell function which underlie susceptibility to disease. Methods: Literature review. Results: There is strong evidence that low birth weight, especially when followed by accelerated growth in childhood and greater central adiposity in adulthood, is a risk factor for a range of common diseases including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Such observations provide the basis for the 'programming' hypothesis and present a challenge to discover the mechanisms by which nutritional insults in early life are received, recorded, remembered and then revealed in later life. Emerging evidence suggests that alterations in epigenetic marking of the genome may be a key mechanism by which nutritional exposure in utero can influence gene expression, and therefore, phenotype. Conclusion: Early life nutrition has the potential to change chromatin structure, to alter gene expression and to modulate health throughout the life course. Whether later interventions can reverse adverse epigenetic markings remains to be discovered. Copyright © 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mathers JC

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: International Conference of the International Life Science Institute on Nutrigenomics

Year of Conference: 2007

Pages: 42-48

ISSN: 1660-0347

Publisher: Forum of Nutrition, S. Karger AG


DOI: 10.1159/0000107066

PubMed id: 17684400

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 3805582161