Maternal Nutritional Supplementation May Protect Against Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Alcohol exposure during pregnancy can cause physical abnormalities, as well as cognitive, behavioral, and emotional issues in offspring. According to a new study published in The FASEB Journal, which was conducted on mice, alcohol exposure during the early stages of embryonic development can result in growth restrictions, brain irregularities, and skeletal delays. Nevertheless, the research suggests that administering specific nutrients to pregnant women before and throughout pregnancy can reduce the occurrence and intensity of alcohol-related birth defects.

The authors stress that the best and only way to avoid fetal alcohol syndrome is to avoid drinking altogether.  However, according to a study by the National Institute of Health, 20 to 30 percent of women reported drinking during their pregnancy. The authors saw a need for additional methods to be made available to protect the developing embryo and their research shows that supplementing the mother’s diet with nutrients could help, especially if the mother is nutrient deficient.

According to the research, the beneficial effects were seen with a combination of four nutrients—folic acid, choline, betaine, and vitamin B12.

The researchers conducted a study on mice to investigate the potential benefits of maternal nutritional interventions using methyl donors as a preventative measure against the adverse effects of fetal alcohol exposure. According to them, findings indicate that a single acute preimplantation fetal alcohol exposure at a specific developmental stage in mice can lead to long-term fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)-like morphological phenotypes such as growth restriction, brain malformations, and skeletal delays.

However, the researchers explained, they also found that supplementing the maternal diet with a combination of four methyl donor nutrients (folic acid, choline, betaine, and vitamin B12) before conception and throughout gestation can effectively reduce the incidence and severity of alcohol-induced morphological defects.

According to the study, it is also important to note that this intervention did not alter the DNA methylation status of imprinting control regions or the regulation of associated imprinted genes.

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