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Prenatal genistein in soy reduces obesity in offspring

y assessed, he said. Pregnant women are exposed to hundreds of compounds in foods, prenatal vitamins and the environment that could potentially methylate susceptible genes, he said. The effects of each compound could be beneficial or detrimental, depending upon the timing of exposure, the dose and the tissue exposed, said Jirtle.

"Our study demonstrates there are highly sensitive windows early in development when environmental exposures can permanently alter the offspring's adult susceptibility to disease," said Jirtle. "Therefore, we need to examine the effect of environmental exposures during pregnancy, not just in adulthood, if we want to accurately assess their risk or benefit to humans."

His earlier research demonstrated that four common nutritional supplements fed to pregnant mice, including folic acid and vitamin B12, lowered their offspring's susceptibility to obesity, diabetes and cancer by methylating the same agouti gene. Yet how nutrients interact in combination or in extremely high doses remains unclear, he said.

"There could be additive or synergistic effects between folic acid and genistein, or any such compounds, that hypermethylate certain genes," said Dana Dolinoy, MPH, lead author of the study. "What is good in small amounts could be harmful in large amounts. We simply don't know the effects of literally hundreds of compounds that we intentionally or inadvertently ingest or encounter each day."

Of related concern, soy is a staple of almost all laboratory mouse diets. Soy could inadvertently methylate select genes and thus mask the deleterious effects of various chemicals being tested for their risk in humans, she said.

"In the future, we may be able to potentially select compounds to protect a person from being predisposed to developing a variety of conditions," said Jirtle. "There is a vast, unknown potential for studying how our environment interacts with our epigenome to determine how we developed and who
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Contact: Becky Levine
levin005@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
28-Mar-2006


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