European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 367–377 | Cite as

The impact of probiotic supplementation during pregnancy on DNA methylation of obesity-related genes in mothers and their children

  • Sanna VähämikoEmail author
  • Asta Laiho
  • Riikka Lund
  • Erika Isolauri
  • Seppo Salminen
  • Kirsi Laitinen
Original Contribution



Dietary supplementation with probiotics during pregnancy has been suggested to decrease the risk for obesity in women after delivery and to minimize excessive weight gain in their children. Epigenetic DNA methylation has been proposed to impact on gene activity, thereby providing a plausible molecular mechanism for a broad range of biological processes and diseases. This pilot study aimed to evaluate whether probiotic supplementation during pregnancy could modify the DNA methylation status of the promoters of obesity and weight gain-related genes in mothers and their children.


A sample of 15 pregnant women was taken from a prospective, randomized mother and infant nutrition and probiotic study. Seven women received the probiotic supplementation and eight served as controls. The women’s and their children’s DNA methylation status of obesity (623 genes) and weight gain-related (433) gene promoters were analyzed from blood samples at the mean of 9.8 months (range 6.1–12.7 months) postpartum.


Probiotic supplementation led to significantly decreased levels of DNA methylation in 37 gene promoters and increased levels of DNA methylation in one gene promoter in women. In their children, 68 gene promoters were significantly affected consistently with a lower level of DNA methylation in the probiotic group.


On the basis of our pilot study, we suggest that probiotic supplementation during pregnancy may affect the DNA methylation status of certain promoters of obesity and weight gain-related genes both in mothers and their children, thereby providing a potential mechanism for long-lasting health effects.


Probiotic Pregnancy Diet Obesity Methylation 



The present study was supported by the grants from the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, the Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation, the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation (personal grant to S. V.), the Juho Vainio Foundation (personal grant to S. V.), and Finnish Cultural Foundation the Varsinais-Suomi Regional Fund (personal grant to S.V.) The Turku Centre for Biotechnology was funded by Biocenter Finland, University of Turku and Åbo Akademi. The food products were provided by Raisio plc (Raisio), but the company had no influence on the design or reporting of the study. Furthermore, we would like to thank our two research nurse, Ulla-Maija Eriksson for the clinical work she conducted with the study subjects and Satu Leinonen for her technical assistance.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have any conflict of interest to declare.


The authors’ responsibilities were as follows: SV, KL, EI, and SS designed the research and SV, KL, EI, SS, RL, and AL conducted the research. All of the authors participated in the preparation of the manuscript and are responsible for the final content.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Functional Foods Forum, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  3. 3.Turku Centre for BiotechnologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  4. 4.Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent MedicineTurku University HospitalTurkuFinland
  5. 5.Faculty of Medicine, Institute of BiomedicineUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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