DNA methylation at cytosines in CpG dinucleotides can lead to changes in gene expression and function without altering the primary sequence of the DNA. Methylation can be affected by dietary levels of methyl-donor components, such as folic acid. This may be an important mechanism for environmentally induced changes in gene expression. Recent literature supports a role for DNA-methylation changes in a number of adult-onset disorders and during development. These changes may be significant for better understanding certain birth defects (e.g., neural tube defects) and the long-term consequences of early environmental influences on gene expression (metabolic programming). Optimal "methylation diets" should be investigated as part of the prevention and treatment of all these conditions, as well as in disorders such as Rett syndrome, whose primary defects may lie in DNA methylation-dependent gene regulation.