Researchers at the University of Western Australia discovered that supplementing polyunsaturated fatty acids during pregnancy and early development showed to be potentially beneficial in preventing allergic, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders in children.
Joining the dots
Professor Susan Prescott said that while researchers know diet can affect many biochemical and physiological properties of cells and organs, the exact molecular mechanism that explains fish oil’s health power was not well understood.
Because of this, Prescott and her team looked into the epigenetic mechanism of DNA methylation, an enzyme process that helps dictate gene expression by acting as a signalling tool to cells to silence certain genes.
They worked to the principle that fish oil could alert the body to insert methyl groups in place of certain DNA sequences, altering various cell types and growth patterns.
“A large body of data suggests that epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation mediate the effects of diet and nutrients in biological systems,” said Prescott.
“We hypothesised that maternal fish oil may affect developing systems by modifying offspring DNA methylation that initiate a cascade of cellular events, resulting in favourable health outcomes.”
Still more to learn
The study involved 36 mother-infant pairs. Prescott told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the study proved that fish oil could enhance a new born baby's immune system, though her team were still unable to isolate the molecular mechanism that explains fish oil's health power.
Previous research by the university found fish oil enhanced foetal growth and reduced the risk of miscarriage.