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Male Folate Intake Linked to ASD-Related Gene Expression

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on December 27, 2013
folic acid father_2


Background: Epigenetic modifications are those that alter DNA’s properties without changing the actual sequence. These alterations make it more or less likely that a gene will be expressed. Recently, researchers have been exploring whether epigenetic information, which is influenced by environmental factors, can be passed from parents to offspring.


What’s New: On December 10, 2013, a study in the journal Nature Communications evaluated the role of fathers’ intake of folate—a form of vitamin B—in their offspring’s development. Researchers exposed male mice to varying levels of folate from the time they were in utero; 49 received sufficient amounts of the nutrient, and 54 were folate-deficient. After breeding them, they found that the offspring of folate-deficient mice had greater epigenetic abnormalities in the genes related to diabetes, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), schizophrenia, and cancer.


Why it’s important: This study suggests that a father’s diet can influence the health of his resulting children, at least in mice. While further research is needed, the findings tout proper folate intake in men as a possible factor to help prevent ASD-related gene expression in children.

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