The father's diet before conception influences child health

Fathers' nutritional errors affect the health of the offspring

It has long been known that expectant mothers should live as healthy as possible so as not to endanger their child. But fathers also influence the health of their offspring through their diet. And even before pregnancy, as scientists have now found out.

Expectant mothers should not only live healthy

Expectant mothers have always been advised to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Most women find out early on what can be on the menu during pregnancy. In the meantime, however, there is growing evidence that the father's diet is also important for the children. Experiments with mice have shown, for example, that paternal nutrition can have an impact on the mental fitness of the offspring. And in a recent study, researchers have now discovered that father's nutritional errors - even before conception - affect the health of his future children.

Effects on the offspring

Numerous scientific studies have shown that parents' lifestyles can have an impact on children.

In a study with male mice, US researchers found that a father's high-fat diet can negatively affect the metabolism of the offspring.

In animal experiments, there are general indications that not only the mother's diet, but also that of the father, influence the child's health. Even before pregnancy.

A German-Chinese research team led by the nephrologist Prof. Dr. Berthold Hocher, who heads a working group for experimental nutritional medicine at the University of Potsdam.

Parental nutrition that affects children's organs

As stated in a communication from the University of Potsdam, the researchers were able to show in a study with rats that not only maternal but also paternal nutrition can cause changes in the organs of the offspring.

In order to arrive at their results, the scientists investigated the connection between a father's diet high in fat, sugar and salt during and before maturation of the sperm and an impaired glucose metabolism in the child, which can later lead to diabetes.

According to the information, folic acid treatment of the pregnant mothers could mitigate the negative effects of the father's nutritional errors.

The results of the study were published in the specialist magazine "Diabetologia".

Imprints already in the womb

Researchers call “fetal programming” the phenomenon that imprints can occur in the womb that trigger later illnesses in the child. The research field of "fetal programming" is still young.

Physicians have known for about 25 years that there is a connection between the diet and diseases of the mother during pregnancy and later diseases of the offspring.

Now scientists have found not only evidence that the foundations for a child's illness are laid before pregnancy, but also that the fathers also influence how healthy their offspring will be later through their diet.

In order to determine the influence of the father's diet on the offspring, the researchers mimicked a fast-food-rich diet in experimental animal studies, as it often occurs in young men.

The fathers fed in this way produced larger and heavier offspring in comparison to a control group, and glucose tolerance was also disturbed in female animals.

The researchers were also able to demonstrate negative effects of the unhealthy diet in the liver and pancreas.

Negative effects could be compensated with folic acid

"The underlying mechanisms here are nutritional changes in the sperm of the unhealthily fed father," explains Professor Hocher.

The parents' nutritional errors therefore have a direct impact on the genetic information of their reproductive cells. The parents then pass these on to the offspring.

In their studies, the researchers were not only able to uncover the connection between diet and disease. They were also able to show that pregnant rats treated with folic acid gave birth to healthy rats without metabolic disorders.

With the vitamin that is already routinely prescribed to pregnant women to prevent the so-called "spina bifida", the open back in babies, the negative effects of the unhealthy diet could be compensated. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: The Role of Fathers in Childrens Health (January 2022).