For the past few years, a slew of studies have focused attention on the role that a pregnant woman's diet has on the future health of her offspring. I previously warned women off doughnuts and Big Macs in this article citing research showing that pregnant women who dined on junk food could increase their baby's chances of developing diabetes and heart disease later in life.
That's because certain environmental factors -- like how much weight a woman gains when she's pregnant, what she eats and what chemicals she's exposed to -- actually affect how her baby's genes are programmed in the womb.
Well, now it's time for dads to share some of the blame for faulty programming that wires kids for obesity and a host of other health ills. A study published last week in the journal Cell suggests that what a father eats before his offspring are created can have some influence on fetal programming for disease risk.
At least father mice, since that's what the researchers studied. Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School fed male mice two different diets before allowing them to impregnate females and found that those who were fed a poor low-protein diet were more likely to produce babies that had genes responsible for churning out high amounts of cholesterol -- a major factor in heart disease risk -- compared to those fed higher protein diets.
“Knowing what your parents were doing before you were conceived is turning out to be important in determining what disease risk factors you may be carrying,” said Dr. Oliver Rando, an associate professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and principal investigator for the study in a statement released to the press.
More fodder for your therapist? Perhaps, but instead of blaming our parents for all our health ills we should take this new research as a sign that we need to be more vigilant when conceiving our own children. Drug abuse, smoking, excessive alcohol intake should all be things that are banned by couples trying to conceive.
And eating a balanced diet filled with colorful fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthful fats like olive oil and nuts can't hurt and might even help improve your baby's future health.
I am, though, waiting for studies on humans to confirm what researchers found in mice before I blame my cream-puff-loving Dad for my own preference for sweets.
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