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You are what your mother ate

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DURHAM, N.C., Aug 04, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A new study indicates what mothers eat during pregnancy could have a fundamental and lifelong effect on their children.

Randy Jirtle and Robert Waterland, researchers at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., found they could change the coat color of baby mice by feeding their mothers different levels of four common nutrients during pregnancy.

The nutrients altered how the pups' cells read their genes. As a result the mice were also less prone to obesity and diabetes than genetically identical mice whose mothers received no supplement.

Mothers given the vitamin supplements gave birth to darker pups than those on a standard diet said the study establishes the tightest link yet between diet and a strange form of inheritance known as epigenetics. Unlike a mutation that changes the DNA sequence of genes, epigenetic factors can alter how a gene is used, while leaving the DNA sequence unchanged.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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