Attention all fathers to be!!!

Researchers from the U of Mass have found that the food you eat is going to make a big difference upon the health of your future children.

So, before you inhale another bucket of popcorn chicken, be aware that your diet will influence the genetic makeup of your children.

In the UMass study, researchers found that adult mice fed a low protein diet produced offspring with an increase in the production of cholesterol synthesis genes.

And while this doesn’t mean that the wee baby mice are doomed to a lifetime of high cholesterol and prescriptions for lipitor, it does mean that a parent’s diet has a big impact on their kids –  in the form of changed epigentic information.

In the UMass experiment, scientists fed two different diets to two different groups of male mice – a standard diet and a low-protein diet. All females were fed a standard diet.

And as nature took it’s course and little mice babies were born, the researchers observed that the low-protein offspring showed an increase in the genes responsible for lipid & cholesterol production in comparison to the standard diet mice.

The observations are consistent with two human studies (1 & 2) which showed that a poor adolescent diet in one generation resulted in an increased risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in second-generation offspring.

However, since these previous human studies were retrospective and involved dynamic populations, they were unable to completely account for all social and economic variables.

Hence this study with lab mice.

According to lead researcher Oliver Rando, “Our study begins to rule out the possibility that social and economic factors, or differences in the DNA sequence, may be contributing to what we’re seeing. It strongly implicates epigenetic inheritance as a contributing factor to changes in gene function.”

Co-author Hans Hofmann continues by saying that “the results also have implications for our understanding of evolutionary processes. It has increasingly become clear in recent years that mothers can endow their offspring with information about the environment, for instance via early experience and maternal factors, and thus make them possibly better adapted to environmental change. Our results show that offspring can inherit such acquired characters even from a parent they have never directly interacted with, which provides a novel mechanism through which natural selection could act in the course of evolution.”

So, what does this mean?

According to Dr. Rando, “we often look at a patient’s behavior and their genes to assess risk. If the patient smokes, they are going to be at an increased risk for cancer. If the family has a long history of heart disease, they might carry a gene that makes them more susceptible to heart disease. But we’re more than just our genes and our behavior. Knowing what environmental factors your parents experienced is also important.”

What’s next for this research?

Drs. Rando et al will begin to explore how and why this genetic reprogramming is being transmitted from generation to generation. “We don’t know why these genes are being reprogrammed or how, precisely, that information is being passed down to the next generation,” said Rando. “It’s consistent with the idea that when parents go hungry, it’s best for offspring to hoard calories, however, it’s not clear if these changes are advantageous in the context of a low-protein diet.”

What does this mean for you?

It means that not only will that bucket of popcorn chicken screw up your health, it will probably screw up your kid’s health as well.

Reference

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