Father's diet could affect offspring's health: Study

Father's diet could affect offspring's health: Study

Lack of protein in a father's diet affects sperm quality which can have a direct impact on the long-term health of their offspring, a study has found.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK fed male mice a poor quality diet which resulted in their offspring becoming over-weight, with symptoms of type 2 diabetes and reduced expression of genes which regulate the metabolism of fat.

The study, published in the journal PNAS, shows that both sperm and the fluid they are carried in (seminal plasma) from male mice fed a low protein diet could affect the long-term metabolic health of their offspring.

There has been much research showing that sperm from men who are overweight, smoke, drink excessively or who have type 2 diabetes are often of poorer quality than sperm from healthy, fertile men.

"It is well understood that what a mother eats during pregnancy can affect the development and health of her child," said Adam Watkins, an assistant professor at the University of Nottingham.

"Our research using mice shows that at the time of conception, the diet and well-being of the father influences the long-term growth and metabolic health of his offspring," said Watkins.

The study found that males fed a low-protein diet produced sperm with fewer chemical tags on their DNA that regulate gene expression than mice fed a normal diet.

Researchers also observed that the seminal plasma suppressed maternal uterine inflammatory and immunological responses, essential for a healthy pregnancy.

They believe that the health of a father's offspring is affected both by the quality of a father's genetic information passed on within the sperm at conception and by the seminal plasma-primed maternal uterine environment in which the embryo will develop. 

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