Researchers from the University of Adelaide in South Australia conducted a laboratory study using under-nourished male mice and found a direct correlation between the health of the offspring and the father’s health at the time of conception.
University of Adelaide researcher Nicole McPherson said previous studies had looked at the affect of malnutrition in mothers but new evidence suggests that paternal influences could play a more direct role.
“Malnutrition is a serious issue and affects hundreds of millions of people around the world,” she said.
“The biggest issue is that people dismiss men’s health and it’s impact on the health of their children, whether that is under-nutrition or over-nutrition.
“However, we now know that the parents' health at the moment of conception is incredibly important. What we're seeing from our research is that some form of dietary supplementation may also benefit fathers-to-be.”
There are about 2 billion people in the world who suffer from various forms of malnutrition. About 2.6 million children die from malnutrition each year, which accounts for a third of child deaths globally.
Under-nutrition is considered to be the number one risk to health worldwide and accounts for 11 per cent of the global burden of disease.
The research study found that the offspring of malnourished male mice were born underdeveloped and showed evidence of abnormal gene expression and metabolic markers.
These offspring were prone to health conditions including increased risk of non-communicable diseases, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, mirroring the situation for human children born in the developing world.
Researchers responded by altering the diet of the male mice to include additional zinc, folate, iron and other vitamin supplements.
This resulted in improved fertility rates, healthier children and normal metabolic markers.
“A father’s health at the time of conception is really important – their particular dietary quality and nutrient sufficiency,” Dr McPherson said.
“We hope that these findings could eventually be translated into interventions, to help reduce the health burden of under-nutrition to the world.”
“This is however a laboratory study and we still need to do more research.”
The study titled Paternal under-nutrition programs metabolic syndrome in offspring which can be reversed by antioxidant/vitamin food fortification in fathers has been published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.
South Australia’s capital Adelaide has three long-standing public universities, Flinders University, University of South Australia, and the University of Adelaide, each of which are consistently rated highly in the international higher education rankings.Jump to next article