Can the father’s diet affect his child’s long-term health?

A recent study has claimed that a father’s diet can impact the long-term health of his offspring.

Studies in the past have shown how a mother’s health has a direct correlation with that of the baby. A report published by scientists at the Medical Research Council and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in 2015, for instance, showed how a mother’s nutritional status can directly impact the unborn child’s genetic composition and immune system.

Turns out, it is not just the mother who needs to eat healthy. Even the father’s diet and lifestyle can affect his child’s health in the long run. According to a study conducted recently by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, paternal diet can affect the quality of sperm and health of the offspring thereafter. The data analysed for the study indicated that “paternal diet impacts on offspring health through both sperm genomic (epigenetic) and seminal plasma (maternal uterine environment) mechanisms…There is growing evidence that paternal diet, physiology, and environmental factors impact on sperm quality, postfertilisation development, and adult offspring health,” read the official website.

The study further indicated that the food a father consumes, especially if it is a low-protein diet (LPD), can affect the sperm quality, which, in turn, can make the baby “heavier with increased adiposity, glucose intolerance, perturbed hepatic gene expression symptomatic of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and altered gut bacterial profiles.” In other words, it can put the child at risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, among other health issues.

“Low sperm quality may play a role in miscarriages”

When Express Parenting got in touch with fertility physician Dr Shweta Goswami, she said, “These studies are at their initial stages. There are more studies on how the growth of the baby inside the mother’s womb has an effect on the child’s risk of developing diabetes, blood pressure or any such lifestyle diseases. There is, however, not much of evidence to corroborate the results.”

Regarding the effect of the father’s diet on the long-term health of the offspring, Dr Goswami explained, “There’s no absolute correlation between the two for now, although there’s a lot of research emerging regarding the same. Lifestyle issues in the offspring come later. The first thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the risk of miscarriage or any inborn abnormality in the child. This, of course, has a direct correlation with a man’s sperm quality also.”

Also Read: Male infertility, busy lifestyles raise fertility challenges

So, what affects the sperm quality? “Smoking or consumption of nicotine in any form, for instance, is known to directly affect the sperm count or quality. Again, if the male partner is diabetic, it can also affect his sperm quality,” said Dr Goswami. Besides, the father’s genetic errors or any form of abnormality, apart from his BMI (Body mass index), can also have an increased expression in the child, she said.

Healthy parents make a healthy baby

The parents’ diet should ideally include green vegetables, walnuts, almonds, multivitamins and antioxidants, said Dr Goswami. “They need to be cautious of the lifestyle and diet they are adopting. As an infertility specialist, I tell my patients that what they eat and what lifestyle they adopt will definitely have a correlation with the success rate of having a baby. The healthier the sperm and egg, the more are the chances of having a healthy baby,” she added.

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