The Father’s Diet Affects The Health Of His Future Children

The Father’s Diet Affects The Health Of His Future Children

Depending on their corpulence, men have spermatozoa carrying different epigenetic marks.This would influence the appetite and health of their offspring.

The Father's Diet Affects The Health Of His Future Children

There is increasing evidence that parents lifestyles and the environment in which they live – even long before conception – influence the health of their offspring. A small study that has just appeared in Cell Metabolism adds one by showing that the spermatozoa of thin men and those of obese men possess epigenetic differences that could influence the appetite of their offspring.

Today we know that children born to obese fathers are predisposed to develop obesity later regardless of the weight of their mother. This is an important element that makes us look at the health of fathers before conception ” write Researchers at the University of Copenhagen who conducted the study.

While fathers’ socioeconomic status may be involved, rodent studies and epidemiological data show that the father’s nutritional status can directly affect the health of his offspring, suggesting that this lifestyle factor is transmitted By epigenetic inheritance in gametes. Indeed, epigenetic marks that correspond to changes in DNA (DNA methylation for example) can control the expression of genes, and thus affect the health of the offspring.

In this study, the researchers analyzed the spermatozoa of 13 thin men and 10 obese men. They discovered that the spermatozoa of the two groups possess different epigenetic marks.

The researchers also followed 6 men before and after a bariatric surgery to lose weight in order to understand how it impacts the epigenetic information contained in the spermatozoa. Scientists then observed an average of 4,000 structural changes in sperm DNA between the period before surgery, immediately after and then a year later. These changes occur at the level of genes involved in appetite control.

We certainly need to look more closely at the significance of these differences, but this is already an indication that sperm carries information about a man’s weight, and our results imply that the loss of Weight in men could influence how to eat their future children, “explains Romain Barres, author of the study.

In our study, we identified the molecular carrier in human gametes that may be responsible for this effect .” The researchers have shown that weight loss can modify the epigenetic information that a man carries in his sperm. This means that what is transmitted in the sperm of the father can potentially affect the development of the future embryo and ultimately affect the physiology of the child.

We did not expect to see such changes in epigenetic information due to the impact of the environment. To discover that lifestyle and environmental factors, such as a person’s nutritional status, Information in our gametes and therefore modify the food behavior of the future generation, is in my opinion an important discovery “says Dr. Barres. Especially in the current context where obesity affects many people.

The study draws attention to the importance of lifestyle factors, especially food, before conception. The way we eat and our level of physical activity before conception can be important for the development and health of our future children .”


Ida Donkin, Soetkin Versteyhe, Lars R. Ingerslev, Kui Qian, Mie Mechta, Loa Nordkap, Brynjulf ​​Mortensen, Emil Vincent R. Appel, Niels Jørgensen, Viggo B. Kristiansen and Christopher T. Workman Juleen R. Zierath, Romain Barres.Obesity and Bariatric Surgery Drive Epigenetic Variation of Spermatozoa in Humans. Cell Metabolism, 2016; (In press) DOI: 10.1016 / j.cmet.2015.11.004

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