The deficiency of folic acid can cause severe health problems in children, including heart problems and placental abnormalities, a new study has found.
Researchers at the Cambridge University have found that a mutation in a gene necessary for the metabolism of folic acid not only impacts the immediate offspring but can also have detrimental health effects on the next several generations.
Dr Erica Watson, lead author the study, said, “Although our research focused on genetic mutations which disrupts the break down and metabolism of folic acid, we believe that folic acid deficiency in the diet would have a similar multi-generational impact on health.”
“Based on our research, we now believe that it may take more than one generation to eliminate the health problems caused by folate deficiency,” said Watson.
The researchers carried study on mice as they metabolize folic acid very similarly to humans and because folic acid deficiency or mutations in the same genes required to break down folic acid in humans result in similar developmental abnormalities and diseases in mice.
This enabled the researchers to explore how the molecular mechanism of folic acid deficiency impacted development, thereby causing health problems.
The scientists used mice in which a gene called Mtrr was specifically mutated. The gene is key to the normal progression of the folic acid cycle and, when mutated, it results in abnormal folic acid metabolism causing similar effects to dietary folic acid deficiency.
The researchers found that when either the maternal grandmother or the maternal grandfather had this Mtrr mutation, their genetically normal grandchildren were at risk of a wide spectrum of developmental abnormalities.
The study was published in the journal Cell.