Birth Defects & Developmental Windows
Providing key nutrients in utero and during early development has long been linked with health, particularly birth defects. The United States supplements its food supply with folate, a nutrient that reduces the incidence of neural tube defects. Folate is a key component in one-carbon metabolism, a pathway and that pathway provides substrates for regulation of gene expression through chromatin remodeling and DNA methylation. The study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without changing DNA sequences is called epigenetics (see glossary).
A growing body of literature is linking maternal and early childhood nutrition diseases which appear at later periods of life. The link between chronic diseases such as the metabolic syndrome and nutrient intake during "developmental" windows is becoming a major research area.
Cooney, CA (2006) Maternal Nutrition: Nutrients and Control of Expression. In Nutritional Genomics: Discovering the Path to Personalized Nutrition. Kaput, J and Rodriguz, R (eds). Wiley and Sons, Inc. NY. 2006.
McMillan, IC and Robinson, JS. 2005. Developmental origins of the metabolic syndrome: predictdion, plasticity, and programming. Physiol. Rev. 82, 571-633. PMID: 15788706