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Here is how nutrition may help overcome genetic risk of diabetes

India Science Wire | Updated on: 21 February 2018, 12:02 IST

For years, scientists have been engaged in finding human genes associated with lifestyle ailments like diabetes and heart disease to know if some population groups are prone to such disorders. Now Indian scientists have found that good nutrition can modify the risk of diabetes posed by presence of some faulty genes.

New research revealed that good nutrition – in the form of B12 and folic acid supplements – has a beneficial impact on genes associated with Type 2 diabetes. The study has been led by scientists at the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), a laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Vitamins B12 and folate plays an important role in DNA methylation – a process that regulates various function of genes without altering the sequence. In DNA methylation, basically a methyl group is added to the DNA, which can change its activity.

Researchers provided Vitamin B12 and folic acid to a group of children for one year and examined the DNA methylation status by analysing their blood samples. They found that only vitamin B12 and not folic acid influences regulation of several Type 2 Diabetes associated genes through methylation of a specific microRNA.

“This assumes significance in the light of our earlier observations that maternal homocysteine levels due to vitamin B12 deficiency are predictive of the future risk of cardio-metabolic risk in their children.

“Hence, this study provides a novel epigenetic explanation for the association between disordered one-carbon metabolism and risk of adiposity, insulin resistance and diabetes and has translational potential” Dr. Giriraj R Chandak, who led the research, said.

To understand the programming of complex diseases in detail, the group is currently working on a set of mothers who were given micronutrients, to see the effect of supplementation in their offspring. This work is being done in collaboration with Dr C S Yajnik at KEM Hospital and Research Centre (KEMHRC), Pune.

In order to understand molecular mechanism of programming in more details, similar conditions have been generated in animal models and effects are being analyzed in their cells, tissues and organs. “Finding of this study will enrich our understanding of the molecular mechanism of foetal programming, cause, and development of complex diseases. These studies will have potential public health significance and help in designing prevention policies,” Dr Chandak said.

The research team included Dr Chandak, Dilip Kumar Yadav and Smeeta Shrestha from CCMB; Hong Pan and Joanna D Holbrook from Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences; Caroline HD Fall and Karen A Lillycrop from Southampton General Hospital, UK; Charu V Joglekar and CS Yajnik from KEM Health Research Centre, Pune. The study was funded by CSIR, Wellcome Trust and Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

Yogesh Sharma (@Yogesh21sharma9)

First published: 21 February 2018, 11:48 IST