Future Fathers, What You Eat Today Matters!
Yesterday, I talked about the importance of good lifestyle choices for prospective fathers. Remarkably, scientists have proven that a man’s diet can have a direct impact on the health of his future offspring.
It’s all about epigenetics; our emerging understanding of how environmental factors can tweak the ways genes work. It’s common knowledge that the “blueprints” for life are encoded in our DNA, and passed down through our genes. The genetic code is unique to each individual. With some minor exceptions, such as random mutations, DNA is essentially “set in stone”. But epigenetics has shown us that things are not quite so simple.
We now know that lifestyle choices we make today may have a lingering impact not only on our own children, but perhaps even on future generations. And that applies to both men and women. Factors such as exposure to toxins, or poor diet, or even getting too little exercise, can all modify the ways in which genes behave. One way to think of it is this: molecular tags that alter the ways genes are expressed can be added to DNA without changing the DNA itself. The information in the gene remains, but the way that information is ultimately expressed can be changed. And those changes can be passed from generation to generation.
When you consider how may Americans are obese and have serious lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, it’s kind of sobering. We may be condemning future generations to relatively poor health, through no fault of their own. All of which underscores my recurrent theme: You are what you eat. Now, I should add: Your offspring could be, too.
X. A. Huang et al. A major epigenetic programming mechanism guided by piRNAs. Developmental Cell Vol. 24, March 11, 2013, p. 1.
S.-F. Ng et al. Chronic high-fat diet in fathers programs b-cell dysfunction in female rat offspring. Nature Vol. 467, October 21, 2010, p. 963. doi:10.1038/nature09491
A. Soubry et al. Paternal obesity is associated with IGF2 hypomethylation in newborns: results from a Newborn Epigenetics Study (NEST) cohort. BMC Medicine Vol. 11, February 6, 2013. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-29