During pregnancy, women are normally advised to take high amounts of multivitamin supplements. In particular, folate is recommended to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in newborns. The problem is that, although vitamins are critical in fetal development, high vitamin doses during pregnancy may cause undesired effects on the offspring later in life (in rats, an obesogenic phenotype is typically observed).
A study in the July issue of the journal Epigenetics suggests that feeding the pups a similar high-folate diet can prevent the obesogenic phenotype of mature offspring from rats fed a high-folate diet during pregnancy.
The authors explain that the increase in folate content in the pup diet has epigenetic effects (molecular changes in genes without any changes in the DNA sequence) on the hypothalamic mechanisms that regulate food intake.
The study, performed in rats and authored by researchers at the Faculty of Medicine from the University of Toronto, has relevance in humans as the effect of increasing amounts of vitamins, especially folate, consumed during pregnancy may have undiscovered later-life effect in the progeny.