Study: Father's Poor Diet May Make Future Child Sick

Thinking about having a baby? You might want to eat this

A father's poor eating habits could make his future children sick, suggests new research involving the University of Texas.  

It is already well known that a women's diet is very important for their children's health, not only during pregnancy, but also long before it. Now there are studies showing the health of a child is also dependent on their father's diet. This may seem like an obvious, but it's something many don't acknowledge or forget as they focus on the mother's role in the child's health.

Study: A Father's Diet Can Predict Child's Risk of Disease

Oliver J. Rando, MD, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology at UMMS and principal investigator for the study says, "Knowing what your father was doing before you were conceived is turning out to be important in determining what disease risk factors you may be carrying."

This study has revealed that the father’s lifestyle can be passed on to the next generation. The genes are apparently altered permanently due to the father's lifestyle and environment and this will pass on to the children.
Dr. Hans Hofmann of the University of Texas said, “Our results show that offspring can inherit such acquired characters even from a parent they have never directly interacted with, which provides a novel mechanism through which natural selection could act in the course of evolution.”
The study, recently published in the journal Cell, found that male mice who ate a low-protein diet passed on to their offspring cellular changes in their livers that affect fat and cholesterol metabolism.

This passing on of traits linked to an environmental factor such as diet, using sperm as the vehicle, is one of the theories championed by researchers in the relatively new field of epigenetics.

The field challenges long-held tenets that genetic information is passed on to offspring exclusively through DNA, and that if environment has an impact, it would take many generations to modify traits.
The researchers fed one group of male mice a low-protein diet and fed an equal number of mice a normal diet. Both groups of mice were bred with females that ate a standard diet.

Then the researchers examined the 52 offspring. In the offspring of mice fed the low-protein diet, researchers noted that genes were "reprogrammed" in a way that increased the production of cholesterol. 

"The genes are modified in a way that they are activated," or turned on, but the genes themselves were not mutated, said Hans Hofmann , an author of the paper and an associate professor of integrative biology at UT.

In other words, "if our DNA is the book of instructions, it doesn't change the ... instructions, but it might change where the bookmarks are," said Oliver Rando , the study's lead author and an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Rando and Hofmann said hundreds of the genes were changed in the offspring of the animals who ate the poor diet, but they focused on cholesterol because of its obvious implications for human health.
It could be powerful information for parents to learn that what they eat today could affect their future child's heart health, Hofmann said.

The work also could have implications for how evolution occurs, they said.
"What the big, important contribution here is — we were able to show pretty conclusively ... that this acclimation to a particular diet can in fact be passed to the offspring through the paternal line," Hofmann said.

Hofmann said that though the researchers aren't making claims about how traits are inherited in humans, their work can provide insights into human inheritance and helps reinforce research done in humans.

A Swedish study published in 2002 examined the long-term effects of feast and famine in people living in an isolated community and found that a person's diet affected the health of that person's children and grandchildren.
"We've proven it happens in mice, and there's good evidence it happens in humans," Rando said. "One thing mouse studies give us is a place to start looking in humans."

High Folate in Fathers Improves Sperm & Gives Birth to Healthier Children.

Researchers have found an association between a vitamin found in leafy green vegetables, fruit and pulses and levels of chromosomal abnormalities in men's sperm. Men who consumed high levels of folate (a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in food) and folic acid (the synthetic form of the vitamin) tended to have lower levels of abnormal sperm where a chromosome had been lost or gained (known as aneuploidy).

Writing in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal, Human Reproduction Thursday 20 March, the authors say estimates suggest that between 1-4% of sperm in a healthy man have some type of aneuploidy, but there are large variations among individuals, the mechanisms are poorly understood and little is known about the effects of men's diet on their sperm. In the first study of its kind to investigate the relationship between sperm aneuploidy and paternal diet, they analysed sperm samples from 89 healthy, non-smoking men and questioned them about their daily total intake (from diet and from vitamin supplements) of zinc, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene.

One of the principal investigators of the study, Brenda Eskenazi, Professor of Maternal and Child Health and Epidemiology and Director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health at the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, USA, said: "We found a statistically significant association between high folate intake and lower sperm aneuploidy: there was increasing benefit with increasing intake, and men in the upper 25th percentile who had the highest intake of folate between 722-1150 micrograms, had 20-30% lower frequencies of several types of aneuploidy compared with men with a lower intake.

"However, this study cannot prove that high folate intake caused the lower sperm aneuploidy levels, only that there is an association. This is the first study of its kind and the results indicate the need for further research, especially a randomized controlled trial, on this topic."

The researchers found no consistent associations between intakes of zinc and other vitamins and sperm aneuploidy. Prof Eskenazi said: "While the importance of maternal diet on reproduction, especially folate intake, is well known, the results of our study suggest the importance of studying paternal nutrition when considering male-mediated developmental consequences. In previous studies, we and others have shown that paternal micronutrient intake may contribute to successful conceptions by improving the quality of the sperm. This study is the first to suggest that paternal diet may play a role after conception in the development of healthy offspring."

The current recommended daily intake (RDA) for men aged over 19 is 400 micrograms, and the authors say that if other studies confirm their findings of the link between folate intake and aneuploidy, then a possible intervention would be to increase the RDA for men considering becoming fathers for at least three months before trying to conceive in order to reduce the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in their children.

A Father's Weight & Diet Before Conception Determines Diabetes Risk in Child.

Medical researchers have for the first time shown a link between a father's weight and diet at the time of conception and an increased risk of diabetes in his offspring.

The finding, reported in the journal Nature, is the first in any species to show that paternal exposure to a high-fat diet initiates progression to metabolic disease in the next generation.

"We've known for a while that overweight mums are more likely to have chubby babies, and that a woman's weight before and during pregnancy can play a role in future disease in her children, partly due to the critical role the intrauterine environment plays in development," said study leader Professor Margaret Morris, from UNSW's School of Medical Sciences.

"But until now, the impact of the father's environment -- in terms of his diet -- on his offspring had not been investigated." The work formed the basis of the PhD study of Dr Sheau-Fang Ng, who showed that paternal environmental factors such as diet and weight are important contributors to disease in the next generation.

In the Nature study, male rats were fed a high fat diet to induce obesity and glucose intolerance and then mated with normal weight females. The resulting female offspring exhibited impaired glucose tolerance and insulin secretion as young adults.

"This is the first report of non-genetic, intergenerational transmission of metabolic consequences of a high fat diet from father to offspring," Professor Morris said.

"A family history of diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for the disease; however until now, the extent of any influence of non-genetic paternal factors has been unclear."

Professor Morris said the research showed that overweight fathers can play a role in "programming" epigenetic changes in their offspring, possibly through effects on their sperm caused by their consumption of high-fat food. Epigenetics is a process whereby changes in gene expression -- and hence function -- can occur even when there are no alterations in the DNA sequence.
Professor Morris said the study expands our understanding of the role environmental factors might play on a child's physiology and metabolism.
"It adds another level to our understanding of the causes of the growing epidemics in obesity and diabetes," she said. "While here we studied female offspring, we need to examine whether the effect is also found in males."
The work was carried out in collaboration with scientists in the UNSW Schools of Medical Sciences and Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, the Garvan Institute, and the University of Adelaide.

Professor Morris will present the findings at the Australia and New Zealand Obesity Society meeting in Sydney.

Interesting to note that
Only 1/2 of Parents Care Enough to Provide Healthy Foods For Their Children

Nearly half of parents are doing little to ensure that their children eat a healthy diet, despite the growing concern over childhood obesity, research indicates.

Although the majority of parents claim that they try to make their offspring eat healthily, only about half of families are actually doing anything about it, a report on childhood obesity by the consumer researcher Mintel found.
Just over half of parents claimed they tried to limit the amount of sugar eaten by their offspring, the poll of 25,000 parents found. Meanwhile, only 42 per cent had done anything to restrict the amount of high-fat food eaten by youngsters.

One in three families reported they had little interest in their children's eating habits and were "relaxed" about their diets while one in six described themselves as "indulgent parents" who would give their child what they wanted whether it was healthy or not.

Maria Elustondo, a senior market analyst for Mintel, said the findings showed that parents needed to do more to ensure their children ate healthy diets.
She said: "The time has come to take action and to move away from simply who is to blame. Although messages about the importance of leading a healthy life seem to be getting through, too many parents are still unsure about how to put a healthy diet into practice. Parents need practical suggestions, such as how to ensure their child eats five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, to make leading a healthy life as easy as possible."

The researchers also interviewed 4,500 children and found that although the majority (72 per cent) claimed to know about the importance of a balanced diet, many did not seem to be putting this into practice.

More than two-thirds said they often ate between meals and more than half claimed to eat whatever they like. The top five snacks of choice were: potato crisps (41 per cent), chocolate (39 per cent), fruit (35 per cent), sweets (29 per cent) and sweet biscuits (22 per cent).

Girls were more interested than boys in healthy eating, with three-quarters of girls understanding the importance of a balanced diet, compared with 68 per cent of boys. A third of children said they often tried to lose weight - whether they needed to or not - and a similar proportion said they ate when they were sad. Girls were twice as likely as boys to be trying to lose weight, and were more likely to feel guilty about eating and to eat for comfort.

In conclusion, I hope we can all agree that healthy eating habits start with the father (and the mother) prior to conception. As we can see this will influence a child's health in many ways.

Thanks for reading! What do you think? 

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