Baby Daddy Alert!
Pregnant women get lots of advice. Much of it is unsolicited. It comes with the territory. People mean well, but something about a tell-tale baby bump seems to bring our the inner busybody in people. They feel compelled to tell pregnant women what they should be eating, or not eating; drinking, or not drinking; doing, or not doing. It’s a story as old as mankind.
But what about dads? They’re seldom, if ever, accosted in this way. No one says to prospective fathers: “You shouldn’t have that beer! It’s bad for the baby.” And you’ve probably never heard anyone tell a prospective father to step away from the cheeseburger and fries, because it’s “bad for the baby”. That would be ridiculous. Right?
Maybe not. Remarkable new research suggests that what a man eats before conception can have just as much influence on a baby’s development as what the mother eats.
There seems to be an assumption that a father’s role is limited to fertilizing the egg. End of story. But evidently, when a man eats a poor diet—especially one that doesn’t feature dark, green, leafy vegetables and other rich sources of folate—it can adversely affect baby’s health. We’ve know for decades that vitamin B9, or folate, is crucial in a mother’s diet if baby is to develop normally. Too little folate in the diet is linked to so-called neural-tube defects: the kinds of developmental errors that cause serious birth defects. Spina bifida is perhaps the best known, but that’s only because babies with this defect are more likely to survive than babies with some other forms of neural tube defects.
Now it’s apparent that what dad puts into his body in the months before conception can influence the very genes he’s transmitting. Fast food type diets are especially problematic. Not surprisingly, diets rich in fruits and vegetables are best for dads and their unborn offspring.
R. Lambrot, C. Xu, S. Saint-Phar, G. Chountalos, T. Cohen, M. Paquet, M. Suderman, M. Hallett, S. Kimmins. Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes. Nature Communications, 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3889