Folic acid supplementation in late gestation and the effects on DNA methylation in the offspring

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Increasingly accurate surveys of human health throughout the life course has led experts to propose that stresses on the child while still in the mother’s womb can affect the individual’s health much later in life. Such long-term effects on health are thought to be mediated by a semi-permanent trace on the genes of the affected person called an epigenetic mark. Epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, are dynamic during pregnancy whereby epigenetic marks are seeded which persist throughout the lifetime of the developing child. It has been suggested that these patterns may be altered by the mother’s diet, particularly folate – a key component in the DNA methylation cycle. Currently, mothers are universally recommended to supplement their diet with 400μg folic acid/day as a preventative measure against neural tube defects in the offspring prior to and during the first trimester. However, there remains no clinical recommendation as to whether mothers should continue supplementation during the final two trimesters and the potentially heritable effects on DNA methylation. Observational studies have suggested that folate-rich maternal diets are associated with changes in DNA methylation of the child during this period of gestation. We present here the results of a randomised control trial (FASSTT study) examining the effects of folic acid supplementation in late gestation (week 12 onwards) on DNA methylation of several gene classes in offspring cord blood samples. We report small but significant sex-specific differences between the two intervention groups. These preliminary results indicate that folic acid supplementation throughout pregnancy may exert significant effects on cord blood DNA methylation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2017
Event19th Meeting of the Irish Society of Human Genetics, - Belfast City Hospital, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Sept 20169 Sept 2016


Conference19th Meeting of the Irish Society of Human Genetics,
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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