Paternal obesity at time of conception can lead to overweight kids: study
More than half the population is now overweight, with one out of four considered obese. (staticnak/shutterstock.com)
Published Monday, January 20, 2014 4:41PM EST
Prospective fathers may want to trim off excess love handles, after a newly published study out of Australia found that paternal obesity at the time of conception can predispose offspring to becoming overweight.
After years of focusing on the impact of a mother’s health on unborn babies, the scientific community has begun to take notice of how a man’s diet can likewise predict an offspring’s body weight and health -- even as early as the time of conception.
In a new study out of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, researchers found that when a group of obese, diabetic male rats were mated with lean female rats, their offspring expressed a genetic predisposition for obesity and poor insulin control.
"While scientists have focused on how the maternal diet affects children's health, this study is part of exciting new research exploring the impact of paternal diet on offspring risk of obesity," said study co-author Margaret Morris.
For their research, scientists mated two groups of male rats with lean female rats: one group was fed a high-fat diet, the other kept on a normal, healthy diet.
Offspring born to obese fathers showed altered expressions in the pancreas -- responsible for producing insulin and regulating blood sugar levels -- and fat tissues.
Baby rats born to obese fathers, for instance, showed a poor ability to respond to a glucose challenge, even while consuming a healthy diet, scientists said.
The Australian study builds on previous research out of Montreal which likewise found that a father’s diet can influence the health of his offspring, particularly when it comes to vitamin B9, also known as folate.
When male mice put on a vitamin B9-deficient diet were mated with female mice, scientists found the risk of birth defects rose nearly 30 percent.
Similar results were observed in a study out of Duke University early last year -- the first conducted on humans.
After gathering medical information from mothers and fathers and DNA from the umbilical cords of newborns, researchers concluded that paternal obesity may be associated with an increased risk of children developing health-related cancers.
The Australian study was published in The FASEB Journal.