When it comes to kids, people usually associate them with the other’s first. It may be understandable, since it is the women who give birth to them. However, a recent study suggests that the father may also play a significant role in the child’s development as well. Aside from the genes, researchers from McGill University say that a father’s diet prior to conception may play an important role in the health of his offspring.
The research focuses on the effect of folate or vitamin B9, which has long been known to prevent miscarriages and birth defects in children. But folate intake was previously associated with pregnant women. But the research seems to indicate that the folate levels of the father can also have an influence on the development and health of the offspring as that of the mother.
According to Sarah Kimmins, a researcher from McGill University, “Despite the fact that folic acid is now added to a variety of foods, fathers who are eating high-fat, fast food diets or who are obese may not be able to use or metabolize folate in the same way as those with adequate levels of the vitamin.”
“People who live in the Canadian North or in other parts of the world where there is food insecurity may also be particularly at risk for folate deficiency. And we now know that this information will be passed on from the father to the embryo with consequences that may be quite serious,” Kimmins further added.
The researchers worked with mice and made the conclusion by comparing offspring of male mice with insufficient folate levels in their diets, as compared to those with sufficient vitamin B9 levels. The researchers found out that paternal folate deficiency was also associated with an increase of birth defects in the offspring.
“We were very surprised to see that there was an almost 30 per cent increase in birth defects in the litters sired by fathers whose levels of folates were insufficient,” according to Dr. Romain Lambrot from McGill’s Dept. of Animal Science and one of the researchers in the said study. “We saw some pretty severe skeletal abnormalities that included both cranio-facial and spinal deformities,” he added.
The research shows that certain regions of the sperm epigenome may be sensitive to life experiences including lifestyle and diet. The epigenome play a role on how the genes are turned on or off, thus influence how inherited information is passed along. It can influence the development of the offspring.
“Our research suggests that fathers need to think about what they put in their mouths, what they smoke and what they drink and remember they are caretakers of generations to come,” Kimmins further stated. “If all goes as we hope, our next step will be to work with collaborators at a fertility clinic so that we can start assessing the links in men between diet, being overweight and how this information relates to the health of their children.”
Results of the study were published in the journal Nature Communications.
Source: Science Daily