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What You Do Today, Affects Your Children’s Future

Evidence is accumulating that more than fetal malnutrition may be at work in producing life-long health problems. After the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 researchers studied the effects of post traumatic stress on a group of women who were pregnant at the time and either inside or close by the Twin Towers. Using the stress hormone cortisol as a barometer, their results suggest that the chemical effects of stress in the mother were passed down to the unborn child. Other studies in animals indicate that exposure to toxins such as fungicides and pesticides cause biological changes that persist for at least four generations.

The most fascinating medical studies of the new millennium were not even performed on humans, but rather a chubby golden yellow strain of mice that are called ‘agouti,’ named after a variant of gene that they possess that in normal circumstances gives them yellow fur. However, if the agouti gene is silenced by having methyl groups attached to it, then agouti instead gives a brownish color to the fur. In addition to a golden yellow coat, the strain of agouti mice used for the study was bred to develop both diabetes and obesity early in life.

In the first study published in 2002, pregnant agouti mice were fed lab chow mixed with methyl-rich supplements such as vitamin B12, betaine hydrochloride and folic acid. In the control group then pregnant mice were simply fed lab-chow. When the offspring were born and grew, visible changes in the baby mice born to mothers who had received the supplement were quite obvious. They had mostly brown fur, and were leaner than the control mice unsupplemented. The control mice on the other hand had higher susceptibilities to obesity, diabetes and cancer. What was most fascinating of all was the fact that the methylated, lean, brown mice went on to maintain that state throughout their lifespan. Supplementing with methyl groups had modified the agouti gene, not just in the mother but in her offspring as well. A more recent 2006 study used a phytoestrogen from soy called genistein, with the same results.

What makes these studies so important is that they clearly demonstrate that environmental factors, in this case diet, can dramatically influence the function of genes epigenetically without ever modifying what is written in the gene.

It’s not too difficult to imagine how lifestyle choices other than those imposed by war or famine could be interpreted through this par to seem to require a need for thriftiness. A poor diet, even beginning months or years prior to conception, smoking, lack of exercise, use of devitalized foods such as simple carbohydrates and sugars, and trans fats can all be interpreted by the fetal matrix as indications of a potentially possible future of compromised nutrition and the epigenome of the fetus readjusted accordingly.

‘Conceivably the cancer you may get today may have been caused by your grandmother’s exposure to an industrial poison 50 years ago, even though your grandmother’s genes were not changed by the exposure… or the mercury you’re eating today in fish may not harm you directly, but may harm your grandchildren.’


Dr. Peter D'Adamo is a naturopathic physician, author, researcher-educator and software developer. He is considered a world expert on glycobiology, principally the ABO blood groups and the secretor (FUT2) polymorphisms. He is the author of the international best-seller, Eat Right 4 Your Type and the Blood Type Diet series of books, and he is currently a Distinguished Professor of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

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