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Study Suggests Dad's Diet Before Conception Influences Baby's Health

It's not all "I got it from my mama." New research shows that a healthier diet on Dad's part while trying to conceive can lead to long-term benefits for baby.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published June 7, 2024
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Image: Kzenon | Shutterstock

If you want to give your baby the best jumpstart on a healthy life, you’ll have to start early, real early, let’s say pre-conception. A new study conducted by researchers at Helmholtz Munich shows that dads’ diet and overall health prior to the baby’s conception can influence their kid’s long-term health.

Using data from the LIFE Child cohort, which includes information from over 3,000 families, researchers observed that Dad’s body weight prior to conception influenced the weight of the children and their susceptibility to metabolic diseases. This influence existed independently from other factors such as the mother’s weight or environmental conditions.

To verify their findings the researchers conducted experiments on mice, feeding half a normal diet and half a high-fat diet. Results showed that mice fed the high-fat diet saw changes in their epididymis (where their sperm is produced) and were more likely to have offspring with an increased tendency to metabolic diseases.

Taking things a step further to prove Dad’s impact, the research team conducted additional studies in the laboratory where they found mt-tsRNAs (mitochondrial tRNA fragments) from high-fat diet sperm significantly influenced gene expression in early embryos, in turn, affecting the development and health of the offspring.

“Our results suggest that preventive health care for men wishing to become fathers should receive more attention and that programs should be developed for this purpose, especially with regard to diet,” said Dr. Raffaele Teperino, the head of the research group in a press release. “This can reduce the risk of diseases like obesity and diabetes in children.”

While cleaning up Dad’s diet ahead of your pregnancy journey can make an impact, each child’s health and wellness is dependent on a host of other factors from their toddler diet to their lifestyle and habits. A happy, healthy child is truly a team effort.

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