Epigenetic Marvel: Vitamin C Helps Toddlers Breathe Easier If Mothers Smoke During Pregnancy

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Your choices today could change your family's health four generations from now - for better or worse. Emerging research on epigenetics shows that environmental toxins, nutrition, stress and other lifestyle factors flip genetic switches to amplify disease risk across generations. But healthy behaviors also echo through your family tree.

Can a vitamin taken during pregnancy help babies breathe easier if their mothers smoke? A recent randomized controlled trial says yes[1]. Researchers followed over 200 children of mothers who continued smoking despite joining a quitting program. During pregnancy, half the moms popped a daily 500mg vitamin C tablet while others took a placebo. Five years later, babies born to the vitamin C group had significantly bigger airways and better lung function compared to their peers exposed to tobacco in utero.

The vitamin C kids also wheezed much less - just 28% of them occasionally wheezed versus 47% of the placebo group between ages 4 and 6. Even a small daily dose made a difference, though starting C supplements before 18 weeks pregnancy had the biggest impact on wheezing rates.

How does vitamin C help? The researchers think it may guard developing airways against damage from toxins in cigarette smoke. While quitting smoking is ideal, this research suggests pregnant smokers who can't kick the habit could help their babies breathe easier with vitamin C.

Emerging Epigenetics Research Reveals Your Choices Today Directly Affect Your Descendants' Health

Groundbreaking studies on epigenetics - how lifestyle and environment influence our genes - reveal that the choices we make today could affect the health of our distant descendants[2].

Research shows that environmental toxins, emotional trauma, nutrition and even emotions can modify gene activity without altering underlying DNA. These changes form "epigenetic tags" that switch genes on or off to amplify or reduce disease risk[3]. The most astounding discovery is that some tags get passed to future generations, allowing parents' experiences to directly imprint offspring - animal studies show effects extending out 14 generations[4].

For example, past research found pregnant rats exposed to common insecticides or plasticizers bore great-grandson generations with higher infertility and low sperm count[5]. So your toxin exposures could stall your male progeny's reproduction four generations later.

Additional studies show descendants of Holocaust survivors have abnormal stress hormone levels[6], reflecting scarred DNA. Abuse, famine or stress while pregnant also associate with mental illness in grandchildren[7]. Early trauma literally remodels genetic stress reactions over generations.

Your behaviors also influence descendants' disease odds by shaping the gut microbes they inherit. As gut bacteria strongly regulate metabolism, immunity and brain function, your diet and environmental exposures seed your microbial population, which passes to children during vaginal birth and breastfeeding[8]. One study confirmed that risk of sepsis death and cancer development depends on inherited microbiome composition[9].

These discoveries mean lifestyle choices echo through your family tree - for better or worse. So reach for an apple instead of a doughnut. Your great-grandkids will thank you.

How else might vitamin C help you? Find out by visiting the GreenMedInfo database on the subject: 


[1] McEvoy, C.T. et al. (2023). Effect of Vitamin C Supplementation for Pregnant Smokers on Offspring Airway Function and Wheeze at Age 5 Years. JAMA Pediatrics, 177(1), 16-24.

[2] Weinhold, B. (2006). Epigenetics: The Science of Change. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(3), A160-A167.

[3] Choi, S.-W., & Friso, S. (2010). Epigenetics: A New Bridge between Nutrition and Health Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 1(1), 8-16.

[4] Klosin, A. et al. (2017). Transgenerational transmission of environmental information in C. elegans. Science, 356(6335).

[5] Anway, M.D. et al. (2005). Epigenetic transgenerational actions of endocrine disruptors and male fertility. Science, 308(5727), 1466-1469.

[6] Yehuda, R., & Bierer, L.M. (2008). Transgenerational transmission of cortisol and PTSD risk. Progress in Brain Research, 167, 121-135

[7] Lim, J.P., & Brunet, A. (2013). Bridging the transgenerational gap with epigenetic memory. Trends in Genetics, 29(3), 176-186.

[8] Gilbert, J.A. et al. (2018). Current understanding of the human microbiome. Nature Medicine, 24, 392-400.

[9] Gopalakrishnan, V. et al. (2018). Gut microbiome modulates response to anti-PD-1 immunotherapy in melanoma patients. Science, 359(6371), 97-103.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

Key Research Topics

Sayer Ji
Founder of GreenMedInfo.com

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