Our earlier studies have shown that a maternal diet imbalanced with micronutrients like folic acid, vitamin B12 has adverse effects on fatty acid metabolism, global methylation patterns and levels of brain neurotrophins in the offspring at birth. However, it is not clear if these effects are mediated through oxidative stress. The role of oxidative stress in influencing epigenetic mechanisms and thereby fetal programming is not well studied.

Pregnant female rats were divided into six treatment groups at two levels of folic acid both in the presence and absence of vitamin B12. Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation was given to the vitamin B12 deficient groups. Following delivery, 8 dams from each group were randomly shifted back to control and the remaining 8 continued on the same treatment diet. Our results indicate for the first time that an imbalance in maternal micronutrients reduces the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) (p<0.05 for both) at birth. At d21 of life, the levels of MDA and GPx (p<0.05 for both) in pup brain from the micronutrient imbalanced group were higher as compared to control while omega 3 fatty acid supplementation normalizes the levels of GPx.

Our data shows that maternal micronutrient imbalance adversely affects antioxidant defense mechanisms while omega 3 fatty acid supplementation ameliorates some of the negative effects. Our study throws light on the role of oxidative stress in fetal brain programming and consequential risk for neurodegenerative disorders in later life.