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Paternal Diet Linked to Obesity Risk

Update Date: Jan 16, 2014 08:35 PM EST

Your father's diet may determine your risk of becoming obese, according to a new study.

A new study of rats has linked paternal diet, bodyweight and health at the time of conception to the health of his offspring.

Researchers found that offspring of obese, diabetic male rats who ate a high fat diet had abnormal gene expression in two important metabolic tissues-pancreas and fat (even though they were not yet obese).

Researchers said the altered gene expression might increase the risk of future obesity and premature aging.  They noted that other genes affected by paternal health and diet include markers of premature aging, cancer and chronic degenerative disease.

"While scientists have focused on how the maternal diet affects children's health, this study is part of exciting new research exploring the impact of paternal diet on offspring risk of obesity," Margaret Morris, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Pharmacology School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, said in a news release. "The fact that similar gene markers were affected in pancreas and fat tissue tells us that some of the same pathways are being influenced, possibly from the earliest stages of life. It will be important to follow up these findings, and to learn more about when and how to intervene to reduce the impact of poor paternal metabolic health on offspring."

Researcher compared the offspring of two groups of male rats. One group was obese and diabetic and fed a high-fat diet. The other group was lean and health and fed a normal diet.

Mice born from obese fathers on a high-fat diet showed a poor ability to respond to a glucose challenge, even while on a health diet. Researchers also found that offspring of obese rats shoed gene expression changes in pancreatic islets, which are responsible for producing insulin to control blood glucose and the fat tissue of their female offspring.

The findings are published in The FASEB Journal.

"For a long time, we've known that the nutrition and health status of women who are pregnant or who want to get pregnant is critical to the health of her offspring, and we've also suspected that the same is true for fathers to a lesser degree," Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said in a news release. "This report is the first step in understanding exactly how the nutrition and health of fathers affects his children, for better or worse."

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