Obesity in Children: Dads Could Pass Weight Traits to Kids Through Sperm: Study

By Julio Alberto Cachila, Parent Herald December 04, 04:30 am

While pregnant women have always been thought to “eat for two,” a new study has found that, in reality, men are doing the same thing: passing their weight traits to their kids through their sperm.

The new study, which is published in Cell Metabolism, found that a man's weight affects the heritable traits that he could pass to his kids. According to a press release, the sperm cells from both lean and obese men contain different traits associated with their appetite.

These traits, called “epigenetic marks,” help determine how much or how often genes that are related to the control of appetite are activated. This helps explain why kids with obese fathers usually tend to become obese themselves, as it is also hereditary.

"In our study, we found that obese men had different epigenetic signals in their sperm cells compared to lean men, and these signals were carried on genes important for the development of the brain and the regulation of appetite," study author Romain Barrès, an associate professor of integrative physiology at the University of Copenhagen, told Live Science.

The study first compared the epigenetic traits of 13 lean and 10 obese men. Next, the researchers tracked six men who are undergoing weight-loss surgery to investigate how it will affect their sperm. They found that thousands of changes to sperm cell DNA structures happened before, directly after, and a year after surgery.

The researchers admitted that they have yet to know what the changes mean and how it affects men's children. However, still, it is considered early evidence that a man's sperm carries health information – and might pass it onto his future children.

"Our research could lead to changing behavior, particularly pre-conception behavior of the father," Barrès said. "It's common knowledge that when a woman is pregnant she should take care of herself -- not drink alcohol, stay away from pollutants, etc.-- but if the implication of our study holds true, then recommendations should be directed towards men, too."

Apparently, the American Pregnancy Association will agree. In their website, the organization wrote that, as a couple prepares for the woman to be pregnant, it's often easy to focus on her health.

Men, on the other hand, forget that they too need to develop some habits as pregnancy does not rest solely on the woman's shoulders. The study just proved that men also need to watch their health and their weight too.

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