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Father's Diet May Determine Child's Genetic Makeup

Update Date: Dec 11, 2013 02:22 PM EST
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Your father's diet might have determined your genetic makeup, a new study suggests.

Scientists discovered that a father's diet before conception plays a very important role in the health of their children. 

New research reveals that dad's diet may be just as important as mom's when it comes to determining the health of the offspring.

The latest study looked at vitamin B9, or folate, consumption. Researchers have long known that mothers need to receive adequate amounts of folate in their diets to prevent birth complications like miscarriages and birth defects. However, the latest study suggests that father's folate levels are just as important to the development and health of their children.

To understand the role a father's diet plays in the development and health of their offspring, researchers compared the offspring of male mice with insufficient folate in their diets with those of father whose diets contained sufficient levels of the vitamin.

The findings linked paternal folate deficiency to higher rates of birth defects in offspring. 

"Despite the fact that folic acid is now added to a variety of foods, fathers who are eating high-fat, fast food diets or who are obese may not be able to use or metabolize folate in the same way as those with adequate levels of the vitamin," lead researcher Sarah Kimmins of McGill University said in a news release. "People who live in the Canadian North or in other parts of the world where there is food insecurity may also be particularly at risk for folate deficiency. And we now know that this information will be passed on from the father to the embryo with consequences that may be quite serious."

Kimmins and her team found that there was a 30 percent increase in birth defects in litters fathered by male mice whose folate levels were too low. Some birth defects included severe skeletal abnormalities in both cranio-facial and spinal deformities.

"Our research suggests that fathers need to think about what they put in their mouths, what they smoke and what they drink and remember they are caretakers of generations to come," said Kimmins. "If all goes as we hope, our next step will be to work with collaborators at a fertility clinic so that we can start assessing the links in men between diet, being overweight and how this information relates to the health of their children."

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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