HYBRID EVENT: You can participate in person at Madrid, Spain or Virtually from your home or work.
Renee J Dufault, Speaker at Pediatrics Conferences
Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute, United States


Background: Unhealthy maternal diet leads to heavy metal exposures from the consumption of ultra-processed foods that may impact gene behavior across generations, creating conditions for the neurodevelopmental disorders known as autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with these disorders have difficulty metabolizing and excreting heavy metals from their bloodstream, and the severity of their symptoms correlates with the heavy metal levels measured in their blood. Pediatricians may play a key role in helping parents reduce their ultra-processed food and dietary heavy metal intake by providing access to effective nutritional epigenetics education.

Aim: To test the efficacy of nutritional epigenetics instruction in reducing parental ultra-processed food intake.

Methods: The study utilized a semi-randomized test and control group pretest-posttest pilot study design with participants recruited from parents having a learning-disabled child with autism or ADHD. Twenty-two parents who met the inclusion criteria were randomly selected to serve in the test (n = 11) or control (n = 11) group. The test group participated in the six-week online nutritional epigenetics tutorial, while the control group did not. The efficacy of the nutritional epigenetics instruction was determined by measuring changes in parent diet and attitude using data derived from an online diet survey administered to the participants during the pre and post intervention periods. Diet intake scores were derived for both ultra-processed and whole/organic foods. Paired sample t-tests were conducted to determine any differences in mean diet scores within each group.

Result: There was a significant difference in the diet scores of the test group between the pre- and post-intervention periods. The parents in the test group significantly reduced their intake of ultra-processed foods with a pre-intervention diet score of 70 (mean = 5.385, SD = 2.534) and a post-intervention diet score of 113 (mean = 8.692, SD = 1.750) and the paired t-test analysis showing a significance of P < 0.001. The test group also significantly increased their consumption of whole and/or organic foods with a pre-intervention diet score of 100 (mean = 5.882, SD = 2.472) and post-intervention diet score of 121 (mean = 7.118, SD = 2.390) and the paired t-test analysis showing a significance of P < 0.05.

Conclusion: Here we show nutritional epigenetics education can be used to reduce ultra-processed food intake and improve attitude among parents having learning-disabled children with autism or ADHD.

Audience Take Away

  • Audience will learn the results of a clinical trial that involved the use of nutritional epigenetics curriculum to successfully teach parents of children with autism and ADHD about the problem of heavy metal residues in the food supply and how these metals may impact gene behavior leading to the development of autism or ADHD across generations
  • Audience may be inspired to teach parents how to avoid dietary heavy metal exposures by adopting a healthy diet
  • Physicians will become aware of the efficacy of available nutritional epigenetics curriculum in changing parent diet and attitudes about the role food plays in their children’s behavior
  • Researchers may see the value of using nutritional epigenetics education as an intervention tool when designing clinical trials to determine how ultra-processed food consumption leads to the development of different disease conditions


Dr. Dufault completed her PhD at A.T. Still University. She retired early from her position as a US Public Health Service officer at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to publish her findings of mercury in high fructose corn syrup. As an FDA whistleblower, she could not find employment as a researcher, so she founded the non-profit Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute where she works as a volunteer. She supplements her income working as a licensed special education teacher. Dr. D is considered a leader in the field of nutritional epigenetics with 726 citations according to Google Scholar