Fetal life is characterized by a tremendous plasticity and ability to respond to various environmental and lifestyle factors, including maternal nutrition. Identification of the role of dietary factors that can modulate and reshape the cellular epigenome during development, including methyl group donors (e.g., folate, choline) and bioactive compounds (e.g., polyphenols) is of great importance; however, there is insufficient knowledge of a particular effect of each type of modulator and/or their combination on fetal life. To enhance the quality and safety of food products for proper fetal health and disease prevention in later life, a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of dietary epigenetic modulators during the critical prenatal period is necessary. This review focuses on the influence of maternal dietary components on DNA methylation, histone modification, and microRNAs, and summarizes current knowledge of the effect and importance of dietary components on epigenetic mechanisms that control the proper expression of genetic information. Evidence reveals that some components in the maternal diet can directly or indirectly affect epigenetic mechanisms. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of how early-life nutritional environment affects the epigenome during development is of great importance for the successful prevention of adult chronic diseases through optimal maternal nutrition.
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