For most women trying to conceive, a healthy diet and lifestyle are on the forefront. But, what about your significant other’s diet and lifestyle habits? An Australian study found that a father’s diet could possibly affect his child’s risk for diabetes and other diseases. The study was conducted at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The researchers, Margaret Morris, PhD, and Sheau-Fang Ng induced obesity in lab rats by overfeeding them a high-fat diet. Ng, a pediatrician, was prompted to conduct the study after noticing that overweight babies typically had both an overweight mother and father. With so much attention focusing on the mother’s health prior to conception, she felt that perhaps research had overlooked dad’s lifestyle and eating habits.
The study was published last year in the journal Nature and stated, “Having either parent obese is an independent risk factor for childhood obesity. Although the detrimental impacts of diet-induced maternal obesity on adiposity and metabolism in offspring are well established, the extent of any contribution of obese fathers is unclear; particularly the role of non-genetic factors in the causal pathway.” The report also stated that most prior research always looked at the genetic relation to obesity and not the environmental or lifestyle factors, particularly that of the father.
Throughout the study, the male rats were fed a diet consisting of 40 percent fat, resulting in the animals becoming obese rather quickly. The rats were then mated with female rats of normal weight. The results showed the female offspring of the rats had significant evidence of diabetes. The female offspring were also underweight at birth, which translated into human terms, is a sign of future diabetes. The male offspring of the pairs also showed some signs of diabetes, but not to the same extent as the females.
With childhood obesity being at an all time high, this research is of particular importance. There are many studies looking at the relationship between obesity and diabetes in terms of lifestyle. However, none of the research is specific to that of a father’s lifestyle prior to conception.