By Sarah A LoBisco, ND

Ahh….two of my favorite topics are about to be discussed-children and epigenetics. 🙂

Part of my mission is to empower people with information that provides scientific validation on how we treat our bodies, through food and lifestyle, has just as much power as their genetic blueprint, if not more.  This means that making lifestyle shifts early in childhood can have profound impacts in health.

Epi-What!?

Wikipedia’s definition of epigenetics reads (emphasis mine):

In biology, and specifically genetics, epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype, caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence – hence the name epi- (Greek: ???- over, above, outer) –genetics, some of which are heritable.

It refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not involve a change in the nucleotide sequence. Examples of such modifications are DNA methylation and histone modification, both of which serve to regulate gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence. These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell’s life and may also last for multiple generations. However, there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism;[1] instead, non-genetic factors cause the organism’s genes to behave (or “express themselves”) differently.[2] There are objections to the use of the term epigenetic to describe chemical modification of histone, since it remains unclear whether or not histone modifications are heritable.[3]

In lay terms, epigenetics means that the environment that surrounds our cells is a key factor in how our genes are expressed, either through disease or through health.

We can modulate our cellular environment positively or negatively through the following:

  1. Food
  2. Stress hormones & inflammatory thoughts
  3. Proper, quality, individualized supplemental support
  4. Exercise
  5. Space for restoration and rest
  6. Capacity to remove harmful substances

Hence, I embrace the functional medicine model of the base of how to alter our biochemical responses in life is how we treat ourselves with nutrition, self-care, rest, movement, sleep, and relationships.

So, what about our children, who are forced to live in this chemical soup that resulted from “better living through chemistry” and are being diagnosed with adult diseases as a result?

This blog is a continuation of my previous blogs and provides some scientific support that what we feed our children and expose them to can positively or negatively affect their health. (For action tips on how you can modulate this, please read my previous blog on other action steps to protect our children.)

Healthy Fats and Pregnancy Outcomes

Testing the hypothesis that higher intakes of omega-3 (n-3) long-chain PUFAs (LCPUFAs) during pregnancy would affect gestation and birth size in baby, a group of researchers reported their results in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

They concluded:

A supplement of 600 mg DHA/d in the last half of gestation resulted in overall greater gestation duration and infant size. A reduction in early preterm and very-low birth weight could be important clinical and public health outcomes of DHA supplementation. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00266825.

Another study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reported that maternal concentrations of  omega 6 fatty acids (the fats from processed foods and some nuts and seeds) could also affect obesity outcomes through childhood (doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-2482. Epub 2012 Nov 16).

Food Addiction, Obesity, Advertising, & Children

These little ones, who need nutrition most, are also most affected by ads promising pleasure and comfort from processed junk food which alter their metabolisms.

In a December study in Pediatrics with 10 children, the brain activity for obese and healthy weight children differed by the same food advertising, with the obese children being more negatively impacted. The researchers concluded:

When shown food logos, obese children showed significantly less brain activation than the healthy weight children in regions associated with cognitive control. This provides initial neuroimaging evidence that obese children may be more vulnerable to the effects of food advertising.

View my latest blog at Saratoga.com for more on the power of supplements in children outcomes.

You can also click the links above and below to read more on this subject.

References:

Epigenetics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics. Updated March 7, 2013.

Bruce, A. et al. Brain Responses to Food Logos in Obese and Healthy Weight Children. The Journal of Pediatrics – 03 December 2012 (10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.10.003). http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476%2812%2901150-X/fulltext

Carlson SE, Colombo J, Gajewski BJ, Gustafson KM, Mundy D, Yeast J, Georgieff MK, Markley LA, Kerling EH, Shaddy DJ. DHA supplementation and pregnancy outcomes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print]

Weatherby, C. Mothers’ Omega Intakes Affect Kids’ Weight. Vital Choice Newsletter. March 4, 2013. http://www.vitalchoice.com/shop/pc/articlesView.asp?id=1997&utm_source=bronto&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Omega+Fats+Linked+to+Weight+in+Kids&utm_content=03%2F04%2F2013&utm_campaign=Moms%27+Omegas+Linked+to+Kids%27+Weight+%E2%9C%AF+FREE+Bonuses+%E2%9C%AF+Fish+vs.+Skin+Cancer+%E2%9C%AF+Spice-Rubbed+Wild+Salmon+%E2%9C%AF+MORE

Moon RJ, Harvey NC, Robinson SM, Ntani G, Davies JH, Inskip HM, Godfrey KM, Dennison EM, Calder PC, Cooper C; SWS Study Group. Maternal plasma polyunsaturated fatty acid status in late pregnancy is associated with offspring body composition in childhood. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Jan;98(1):299-307. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-2482. Epub 2012 Nov 16.

Links by Dr. Sarah:

The Power of the Petri Dish on Our Hearts: In Kenny Rogers and Functional Medicine Style! 6/14/12. http://dr-lobisco.com/the-power-of-the-petri-dish-on-our-hearts-in-kenny-rogers-and-functional-medicine-style/

Environmental Impacts: Children More At Risk. 12/5/12. http://www.saratoga.com/living-well/2012/12/environmental-impacts-children-more-at-risk.html

Protecting our Children’s Heath & Their World. 12/5/12. http://dr-lobisco.com/protecting-our-childrens-heath-their-world/

Putting our Children’s Future First: The Environmental Impacts on Development. 12/14/12. http://dr-lobisco.com/putting-our-childrens-future-first-the-environmental-impacts-on-development/

Action Steps To Protect Our Children’s Health. 12/14/12. http://www.saratoga.com/living-well/2012/12/action-steps-to-protect-our-childrens-health.html

For the Sake of Our Children-Childhood Obesity II. 5/17/12. http://dr-lobisco.com/for-the-sake-of-our-children-childhood-obesity-ii/

Obesity- A Cause or A Symptom of Modern Day Medicine? 5/3/12. http://www.saratoga.com/living-well/2012/05/obesity–a-cause-or-a-symptom-of-modern-day-medicine.html