12 January - 20 June 2016

You are what your father eats

18 Dec 13

A recent paper published by Kimmins et al from McGill University and published in Nature Communications suggests that the diet of a father may influence the health of his offspring. The research focused on vitamin B9 (folate) which is found in a range of cereals, fruit, vegetables and meats. It is well documented that mothers need to get adequate amounts of folate in their diet to help prevent miscarriages and birth defects. There has however been very little research into the way a father’s diet can influence the health and development of their offspring. The team investigated the pattern of chemical changes to DNA and how these are inherited (epidenomics).  A proposed mechanism for paternal transmission of environmental information is via the sperm epigenome which includes heritable information such as DNA methylation. In this study the researchers hypothesise that the availability of folate will alter the levels of DNA methylation in spermatogenesis with consequences for the sperm epigenome and pregnancy outcomes. Male inbred C57BL/6m mice received throughout their life either a control folate-sufficient diet (2.0 mg/kg folic acid) or a folate-deficient diet (0.3 mg/kg folic acid). A variety of analyses investigated the effects of folate deficiency on meiosis, DNA damage in spermatocytes, somatic cells, fertility outcomes, pregnancy outcomes, sperm epigenome and gene expression in the placenta of offsprings. The research shows that there are regions of the sperm epigenome that are sensitive to diet and that this information is in turn transferred to a so-called epigenomic map that influences development and may also influence metabolism and disease including diabetes, autism schizophrena and cancer in the offspring in the long-term. Abnormalities were 27% in offspring fathered by folate deficient fathers, compared to 3% on the folate sufficient diet. Abnormalities in the offspring from folate deficient fathers were skeletal, whereas the folate sufficient offspring had minor abnormalities. This suggests that fathers need to pay attention to their diet and lifestyle when setting out to conceive a child.  

RSSL's Functional Ingredients Laboratory provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets.  It provides a full vitamin and mineral analysis service to assist with labelling, due diligence, claim substantiation and stability. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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