B Vitamins During Pregnancy & Nursing Protect Against Colon Cancer in Offspring

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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A new animal study shows that B vitamin supplementation1 during pregnancy programs gene signals to be resistant to colon cancer, offering long-term protection against such a problem. This study is yet another that highlights the importance of epigenetic programming that is going on in the womb and early life. It speaks to the power of good nutrition to do far more than simply protect against a blatant deficiency. It shows that nutritional adequacy during key formative times is vital to future health.

Scientists studied a mouse model that routinely develops colon cancer. B vitamins dramatically lowered the rate of colon cancer. “The strongest expression of tumor-suppressing genes in the Wnt pathway was in the offspring of supplemented mothers and the weakest was in the offspring of the mildly deficient mothers,” says first author Eric Ciappio, a PhD candidate at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.  “We attribute these differences in gene expression to epigenetics, modifications of DNA which are sensitive to environmental factors such as diet,” Ciappio continues. “In this case, changing maternal B vitamin intake had lasting epigenetic effects in offspring and may explain the differences in tumor incidence and aggressiveness we observed.”

“We saw, by far, the fewest intestinal tumors in the offspring of mothers consuming the supplemented diet,” says Jimmy Crott, PhD, senior author and a scientist in the Vitamins and Carcinogenesis Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA. “Aside from the known protective effect of maternal folate against neural tube defects such as spina bifida, our results suggest that mothers consuming supplemental quantities of these B vitamins may also be protecting her children against colorectal cancer.”

B vitamins are used up by stress. Pregnant and nursing mothers need enough B vitamins to help them feel energized and more above the fray of stress. Doing so may have some lasting health benefits to the way the genes work in their children.

Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ B vitamins During Pregnancy Reduce Colon Cancer Risk  Gut  Eric D Ciappio, Zhenhua Liu, Ryan S Brooks, Joel B Mason, Roderick T Bronson, Jimmy W Crott.

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