OHIO: A father's diet before his child is conceived can play an important role in the health of his baby, according to a study published in a biological research journal.
Researchers from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, found that fathers who had a low carbohydrate and high protein diet could produce offspring with lower mortality.
“In many species, the mums do a lot of the care. So we expect there to be an effect from maternal diet on offspring because of that strong link. But it was a real surprise to find a link between paternal diet and offspring," said Professor Michal Polak, a biologist at the universiry who was quoted by the Daily Mail on Friday (Oct 13).
The study, which was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is part of ongoing efforts to learn more about mens' influences on babies’ health that are not genetically linked.
In this case, researchers mated male fruit flies with female ones after altering their diet. Female fruit flies were fed the same diet, while the males had different ones consisting of yeast and sugars. After 17 days on the diet, the males were mated with two females.
The result - fruit-fly embryos were more likely to survive if they had a father with a high protein and low carb diet. Mortality was highest for the offspring of male fruit flies given a high carbohydrate, low protein diet.
Fruit flies were used in the study as they have 60 per cent of human genes, 75 per cent of which cause diseases. The researchers believe the impact of the bugs' diet would correlate with that of men, according to the Daily Mail article.
There was also a correlation between a male’s energy reserves and his offspring’s mortality. Male fruit flies with lower whole body fatty acids, glucose and protein were more likely to have fewer surviving offspring, the study found.
“There have been a fair number of studies that suggest male nutrition does affect reproductive capacity,” said Professor Joshua Benoit, assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Cincinnati.
Researchers recommend that men who want to become fathers should have a diet consisting of fish, meat, vegetables and fruit, while cutting out pasta, rice and white bread. Sugary foods such as sweets, cakes and biscuits should also be avoided.