Dad’s diet

By | Health & Wellness
New research suggests that what a man eats during conception could have a significant affect on his child's health. Credit image@

When it comes to conceiving a baby, there may be thousands of books to help a mother out, ranging from exercise routines to diet tips, in order that both she and her baby go through the nine month process as happily and healthily as possible.Yet what the father does may need more attention. A new study, however, has revealed that what he ingests may be much more influential than previously thought.

A study led by McGill University researcher Dr. Sarah Kimmins has revealed the impact of a father’s diet before conception. Dr. Kimmins has published her results in this month’s copy of the journal Nature Communications, concentrating her research on paternal intake of folate.

Folate, also known as folic acid, is a form of water-soluble vitamin B9 that humans are unable to synthesize on ones own, and needs to be acquired from a diet. In adults, it takes up several functions, including DNA synthesis and repair, and has been known for its benefits in pregnant women, notably aiding cell division and healthy growth in the unborn child.

This vitamin is found in several key dietary components, such as leafy green vegetables, cereals and meats. However, the father’s folate levels may be just as vital as the mother’s with regard to the child’s development, influencing the offspring’s health.

Using mice, one of science’s go to animals when conducting research, Dr. Kimmins sought to demonstrate the effect of folate deficiency in the father’s diet on the health of his offspring. Indeed, those with adequate folate intake before conception sired much healthier offspring compared to folate-deficient males. The researchers concluded this might be due to the sperm’s epigenome, a “switch,” so to speak, which may be influenced by environmental factors like diet, turning certain genes on or off, which thus alters what gets inherited in the offspring.

While Dr. Kimmins explains folate deficiency in the father predisposes his offspring to metabolic conditions like diabetes, the increased rates of diabetes in the USA for example, jumping from 6 million to 20 million between 1985 and 2010, means that the role of the father’s sperm epigenome, and its links to diet, should be researched further.

Dr. Kimmins’s experiments with mice show a similar effect might be seen in humans: fathers that have a minimal-fat diet with minimal junk food are able to metabolize folate more effectively compared to men with minimally healthy diets, meaning healthier children. Thus in areas like the Canadian North, Kimmins says, where there are food insecurities, people need look to supplement their diet with vitamins if they are looking to conceive.

Folate may be easy to incorporate into a healthy diet. Beans and Spinach may contain over half of your daily vitamin intake, while avocados and lentils may help supplement an already folate-rich diet. Even the household staple bread may contain anywhere between 10 and 25 percent of your daily needs (depending on the type). Furthermore, this vitamin may be available in most health and wellness shops, catering for even the most challenging of eaters.

Dr. Kimmins’s research goes to show the importance of a healthy diet in the father during conception, and she aims to work with fertility clinics in the future to assess the impact of male health on that of his offspring.

How does this new pioneering research support uncoming births to be born healthier?


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