Key Message: Diet can alter the nature of one’s DNA

Action Point: Eat a healthy, well balanced diet prior to conception to reduce the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome

We all know the age-old saying, “ you are what you eat”. Well now according to new studies, you are what your mother, father, grandparents and great-grandparents ate.

There has been much speculation about the ability of diet to alter the nature of your DNA, however researchers in two independent studies have found ways in which this is likely happening.

Epigenetics may help explain the increased risk that children face and the reason why poor dietary habits may be doing your offspring harm, despite how healthy they will try to eat.

A new study in the Netherlands showed the diet of human adults induces changes in all cells, including sperm and egg cells, which can be passed on to offspring. While such effects on a single generation have been known, what is still missing is an understanding of how such information is remembered from generation to generation.

The common belief is that during the process of cell division, all epigenetic markers are erased. However according to author Josep C. Jimenez-Chillaron of the Paediatric Hospital Sant Joan de Deu, in Spain his work and the work of many others “suggests that this is not completely true.” He says, “Although the majority of epigenetic markers are erased, some markers are spared for unknown reasons.”

Although the evidence is still inconclusive, another study conducted in Poland, speculates that nutrients, which affect the chromatin, can also cause mutations, both good and bad.

More experiments are needed however if mothers and fathers eat more omega-3 fatty acids, choline, betaine, folic acid and vitamin B12, these nutrients can possibly alter DNA expression as well as having beneficial effects and could lead to babies with a lower risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Both teams of scientists said that cells in “an early state of development are more prone to epigenetic changes from nutrition than adult cells, therefore the most notable changes are seen in fetuses and infants”.

So it is only a matter of time before there is solid evidence showing how we pass along the consequences of our nutritional habits to subsequent generations.


1. Wanjek, C (2012) “ Your diet affects your grandchildren’s DNA” Live Science website viewed on 5th November 2015 at

Sandra Di Giacomo Written by: Sandra Di Giacomo

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