Preterm pregnancies account for approximately 10% of the total pregnancies and are associated with low birth weight (LBW) babies. Recent studies have shown that LBW babies are at an increased risk of developing brain disorders such as cognitive dysfunction and psychiatric disorders. Maternal nutrition, particularly, micronutrients involved in one-carbon metabolism (folic acid, vitamin B(12), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) have a major role during pregnancy for developing fetus and are important determinants of epigenesis. A series of our studies in pregnancy complications have well established the importance of omega 3 fatty acids especially DHA. DHA regulates levels of neurotrophins like brain-derived neurotrophic factor and nerve growth factor, which are required for normal neurological development. We have recently described that in one carbon metabolic pathway, membrane phospholipids are major methyl group acceptors and reduced DHA levels may result in diversion of methyl groups toward deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) ultimately resulting in DNA methylation. In this review, we propose that altered maternal micronutrients (folic acid, vitamin B(12)), increased homocysteine, and oxidative stress levels that cause epigenetic modifications may be one of the mechanisms that contribute to preterm birth and poor fetal outcome, increasing risk for behavioural disorders in children.
[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
LINK – J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2012 Apr;25(4):317-23. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2011.579209. Epub 2011 May 24