Dads’ diets before conception found to impact child health, study finds dads need to eat better before expecting too

A new study that was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B has found that what a soon-to-be father eats is indicative of the health and well-being of his yet-to-be-born offspring.

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio looked into the diet of male fruit files and noticed that it can have an impact on their offspring’s health and vitality.

According to the researchers, having a diet of low carbohydrate and high protein by the father can help make the child healthier once it is born. They should eat a diet consisting of fish, fruits, meats, and vegetables, while reduce their intake of pasta, rice, and white bread. They should also avoid foods like biscuits, cakes, and sweets.

Previous studies only cite the importance of maternal health to the child’s overall health. Even though it is evident that a father is responsible for half of his offspring’s genes, researchers wanted to further explore the influences that fathers have on their child’s health that are not within the spectrum of the gene pool, a concept called epigenetics. These include direct environmental effects such as toxin exposure that can be transferable from the parent to offspring via the seminal plasma.

Epigenetics is the process by which cells interpret genes, classifying others as dormant and others as active. Genes can be turned on and off by some extraneous factors; epigentic modifications, too, can be inherited. (Related: Fathers’ diets and health found to influence offspring’s obesity, insulin resistance.)

In many species, the moms do a lot of the care. So we expect there to be an effect from maternal diet on offspring because of that strong link. But it was a real surprise to find a link between paternal diet and offspring,” said University of Cincinnati biologist, Professor Michal Polak. Epigenetic changes are seen in population genetics as less durable than actual mutations to the genetic code or DNA molecule. If it’s a dominant, deleterious mutation, it could be quickly eliminated out of a gene pool and increase in frequency until it becomes fixed.”

The researchers manipulated the nutrition of male fruit flies of the species Drosophila melanogaster and observed a relevant correlation between poor diet and poor survivorship among offspring. Fruit flies were chosen to conduct the study because they share around 60 percent of human genes and over 75 percent of human disease genes.

They had female fruit flies of the species Drosophila melanogaster, which are known for their red eyes and considerably healthy reproductive systems (she can lay as much as 50 eggs per day or as many as 2,000 eggs in her two-month lifetime), in close company with the male ones. The females were fed the same diet, but the males were given 30 different diets of yeast and sugars.

They reproduce quickly. You can hear a few hundred in just one of these little jars. You can have thousands of fruit flies in the same amount of space you could fit six mice. It’s a great system to work on. That’s why so many questions have been answered about them,” said Professor Joshua Benoit, assistant professor of biological scientists at the University of Cincinnati.

Benoit said fruit flies are pretty common anywhere – he said he even saw some inside a research station in Antarctica, where they probably helped themselves to food supplies imported from Chile. Fruit flies were highly utilized in the early 1900s when biologists began to discover how genetic inheritance worked.

Over 150 years have already passed since these insects have been made models in studies, Polak said, noting, “It’s almost arbitrary why fruit flies were chosen. It just became the workhorse in those original labs.”

After 17 days of strict diet, the male fruit flies mated individually and consecutively with two females, which received the same diet. The researchers found out that even though the two would-be mothers were fed a healthy diet, the survivability of their offspring depended on the health of the would-be father. Embryos were more likely to survive if their father had a low-carbohydrate and high-protein diet.

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