New research has shown that a lack of protein in a father’s diet affects sperm quality, which can have a direct impact on the long-term health of their offspring.
Researchers published a report in PNAS showing that both sperm and the fluid they are carried in (seminal plasma) from male mice fed a low-protein diet could affect the long-term metabolic health of their children.
The study, carried out at the University of Nottingham, U.K., fed male mice a low-protein diet. These mice produced sperm with fewer chemical tags on their DNA that regulate gene expression than mice fed a normal diet. Researchers also observed that the seminal plasma suppressed maternal uterine inflammatory and immunological responses, essential for a healthy pregnancy. This resulted in their offspring becoming overweight, with symptoms of type 2 diabetes and reduced expression of genes which regulate the metabolism of fat.
Dr. Adam Watkins, assistant professor in Reproductive Biology at the University of Nottingham, led the study. “It is well understood that what a mother eats during pregnancy can affect the development and health of her child,” he said. “Interestingly, little, if any, advice is available for the father. Our research using mice shows that at the time of conception, the diet and well-being of the father influences the long-term growth and metabolic health of his offspring. Our study not only identifies what impact a poor paternal diet has on the health of his offspring but also starts to uncover how these effects are established.”