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Obese dads put kids at risk for metabolic disorders
A dad's diet and weight at the time of conception likely affect his offspring's risk for metabolic disorder and obesity, new research suggests.
A study from the University of Adelaide in South Australia found that obese mice were more likely to father sons and daughters who had an increased risk for diabetes - and that daughters were more susceptible to this risk.
"We've known for quite some time that obesity is a serious problem for children of expectant mothers," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, "and now we see that obesity is likely a serious problem for children of obese fathers as well."
Obese male mice mate with healthy controls
Researchers used two groups of mice in the study - one that was fed a high-fat diet and a control group that was fed a nutritious diet. The experimental group, not surprisingly, gained weight and had an increase in obesity - but this group didn't show any indication of diabetes.
The two groups of male mice were then mated with female mice that were fed a nutritious diet and who were normal weight. These offspring were then mated to normal-weight control mice to produce a second generation. The mice that came from obese fathers or grandfathers had metabolic disorders and obesity, with the female offspring inheriting most cases of diabetes.
Obesity and sperm molecules
Researchers looked at small RNA molecules in sperm, comparing those that came from obese mice to those that came from control mice. They concluded that changes in these molecules could be partially responsible for the genetic predisposition toward metabolic syndrome or diabetes - and that a father's diet can change the molecular makeup of his sperm.
"If these findings hold true in humans, then a father's diet and body composition at the time of conception is likely to affect his future child's health and risk of lifelong disease," said researcher Tod Fullston, Ph.D.
And since health outcomes extend beyond first-generation offspring, fathers should also be aware of how health risks can be passed down to their grandchildren.
"Fathers should aim to be as healthy as possible at the time of conception to give future generations the best possible chance of good health," Fullston said.
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