Maternal Mediterranean diet in pregnancy and newborn DNA methylation: a meta-analysis in the PACE Consortium

Epigenetics. 2022 Nov;17(11):1419-1431. doi: 10.1080/15592294.2022.2038412. Epub 2022 Mar 2.


Higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy is related to a lower risk of preterm birth and to better offspring cardiometabolic health. DNA methylation may be an underlying biological mechanism. We evaluated whether maternal adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with offspring cord blood DNA methylation.We meta-analysed epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) of maternal adherence to the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy and offspring cord blood DNA methylation in 2802 mother-child pairs from five cohorts. We calculated the relative Mediterranean diet (rMED) score with range 0-18 and an adjusted rMED excluding alcohol (rMEDp, range 0-16). DNA methylation was measured using Illumina 450K arrays. We used robust linear regression modelling adjusted for child sex, maternal education, age, smoking, body mass index, energy intake, batch, and cell types. We performed several functional analyses and examined the persistence of differential DNA methylation into childhood (4.5-7.8 y).rMEDp was associated with cord blood DNA methylation at cg23757341 (0.064% increase in DNA methylation per 1-point increase in the rMEDp score, SE = 0.011, P = 2.41 × 10-8). This cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) site maps to WNT5B, associated with adipogenesis and glycaemic phenotypes. We did not identify associations with childhood gene expression, nor did we find enriched biological pathways. The association did not persist into childhood.In this meta-analysis, maternal adherence to the Mediterranean diet (excluding alcohol) during pregnancy was associated with cord blood DNA methylation level at cg23757341. Potential mediation of DNA methylation in associations with offspring health requires further study.

Keywords: DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Mediterranean diet; cord blood; epigenome-wide association study; maternal diet; newborn; prenatal diet.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cytosine / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism
  • Guanine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth* / genetics
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects* / genetics


  • Cytosine
  • Phosphates
  • Guanine