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Effects of early programming on child's neurodevelopmental outcomes

Final Report Summary - NUTRIOMICS (Effects of early programming on child's neurodevelopmental outcomes)

The overall objectives of the current project were to study the effects of early programming, i.e. folate and/or fatty acids supplementation during pregnancy and influence of higher body weight/obesity in association with genetic background on neurodevelopmental outcomes in children.

The main results of the project are:
• No clear effects of fatty acid and folate supplementation on infant’s neurodevelopmental outcomes were identified, however, higher fatty acid and folate levels in children at delivery could have positive effect on their neurodevelopment later in life.
• FADS gene cluster polymorphisms were significantly associated with cheek cells fatty acid levels, meaning that individual’s genetic background has important role on blood biomarker levels.
• Women supplemented with folate during pregnancy have different placental methylation pattern at delivery than women supplemented with fatty acids or control placebo group. This demonstrates that maternal supplementation with folate during pregnancy influences infant’s early programming.
• Pregnant women being overweight or obese show several metabolic alterations, having lower weight gain during pregnancy, while infant birth weight, waist circumference, and placental weight are higher. This demonstrates clearly that maternal body weight has an (negative) impact on child’s early programming with possible adverse effect for later life.
• Obese women have significant down-regulation of gene expression and signalling pathways in the placentas when compared to placentas from normal weight women. This confirms further the adverse effects of higher body weight on infant’s early programming.
• Obese women have significant dys-regulation of microRNAs in the placentas when compared to placentas from normal weight women. This demonstrates again the adverse effects of higher body weight on infant’s early programming (epigenetic programming).
• There seems to be no clear early programming effects on epigenome between infants with low birth fat mass and high birth fat mass. One explanation could be that these infants did not suffer in any nutritional shortcomings during pregnancy and their epigenetic profile is similar.
• Maternal genetic background influences weight change during pregnancy, meaning that some women are more prone to gain more weight during pregnancy than others.
• Maternal genetic background can influence child’s neurodevelopmental outcomes via transplacental actions. These findings indicate that some children are genetically more ‘gifted’ in the sense of cognitive, language and motor development than other children.

In summary the project results demonstrate that early programming is influenced, in association with genetic background, by maternal folate and/or fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy and body weight/obesity, which has an impact on infant’s developmental and neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Altogether, the project results have been summarised in 10 scientific papers, 9 manuscripts, and 1 book chapter. The current project supports basic research with the goal of direct application of the potential results through nutritional and body weight recommendation to the society. However, we still have to finalise and publish some of the tasks of the project, together with replication and validations of the obtained results in order to be able to provide solid conclusions, guidelines and recommendations to the targeted women.

In conclusion, this project has yielded and additionally will provide valuable knowledge for future promotion of health across Europe and other countries through positive dietary and body weight recommendations for pregnant women. Identification of the factors in early programming effects on child’s development and the subsequent application of nutritional and body weight recommendations would ultimately be of broad social significance for European populations in terms of affecting health behaviours, education, work potential and general health.