Father’s diet can permanently affect his offspring

December 12, 2013  09:57

When it comes to the future health of a newborn, a lot of effort is placed on the mother’s lifestyle – as numerous studies have found that a mother’s weight and diet can heavily influence a fetus’s development in the womb, Fox News reports.   

But it may not just be mom’s eating habits that can affect an unborn child. New research from McGill University in Montreal has revealed that a father’s diet pre-conception may also play a crucial role in the future health of his offspring.

In their study, they highlighted the significance of the vitamin B9 – also known as folate – which is found naturally in a number of leafy vegetables, fruits, cereals and meats.  Previous research has indicated that mothers must get an adequate amount of folate in their diets in order to prevent birth defects and miscarriages. 

However, the relevance of a father’s folate intake has gone unstudied.

To better understand how a father’s diet and folate intake might impact a child’s health, the researchers examined the offspring of a group of male mice.  Before the mice procreated, half of the fathers received a diet deficient in folate and the other half received a diet with adequate levels of the vitamin.

The researchers found that the offspring of the folate-deficient fathers had a 30 percent increased risk of birth defects, compared to the offspring of the fathers who had received a sufficient amount of folate.  

The lead author Dr. Sarah Kimmins, Canada research chair in epigenetics, reproduction and development at McGill, said. “Men are not just responsible for their own health.  They’re also responsible for the health of their offspring.”

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