The AAPS Journal

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 27–36 | Cite as

Impact of Epigenetic Dietary Compounds on Transgenerational Prevention of Human Diseases

  • Yuanyuan LiEmail author
  • Sabita N. Saldanha
  • Trygve O. Tollefsbol
Review Article Theme: Natural Products Drug Discovery in Cancer Prevention


The etiology of most human diseases involves complicated interactions of multiple environmental factors with individual genetic background which is initially generated early in human life, for example, during the processes of embryogenesis and fetal development in utero. Early embryogenesis includes a series of programming processes involving extremely accurate time-controlled gene activation/silencing expressions, and epigenetic control is believed to play a key role in regulating early embryonic development. Certain dietary components with properties in influencing epigenetic processes are believed to have preventive effects on many human diseases such as cancer. Evidence shows that in utero exposure to certain epigenetic diets may lead to reprogramming of primary epigenetic profiles such as DNA methylation and histone modifications on the key coding genes of the fetal genome, leading to different susceptibility to diseases later in life. In this review, we assess the current advances in dietary epigenetic intervention on transgenerational human disease control. Enhanced understanding of the important role of early life epigenetics control may lead to cost-effective translational chemopreventive potential by appropriate administration of prenatal and/or postnatal dietary supplements leading to early disease prevention.


diet embryogenesis epigenetic human diseases prevention transgenerational 



DNA methyltransferase


Histone deacetylases


Histone acetyltransferases








Neural tube defects


Estrogen receptor


Noncommunicable diseases



This work was supported by grants from the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuanyuan Li
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Sabita N. Saldanha
    • 1
    • 5
  • Trygve O. Tollefsbol
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  2. 2.Center for AgingUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  3. 3.Comprehensive Cancer CenterUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  4. 4.Nutrition Obesity Research CenterUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  5. 5.Department of Math and SciencesAlabama State UniversityMontgomeryUSA
  6. 6.BirminghamUSA

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