RedTracker| The scientific realities of health-related, lifestyle diseases like diabetes are bearing down on pregnant mothers, as researchers connect the mother’s health, habits and BMI to her baby’s future well being. Anne recently reviewed the mother-baby brain health connections in her article Will Healthy BMI French Moms Have Smarter Kids than US Moms?
We know that the brains of many fast-food eaters shrink in size, in areas of critical-thinking capacity.
Now dad is under the microscope, too. This week in Nature, Margaret Morris and her team have determined that the ‘metabolic sins’ of the father are also transferred to the children.
The researchers put one of their two groups of male rats on a high-fat diet, the other on a normal one. Unsurprisingly, the high-fat rats put on a lot of weight and began to show symptoms of type II diabetes like insulin resistance and struggles with metabolizing glucose. These results were expected.
The big surprise came with the baby female rats, born of these fathers. (Males weren’t studies.)
Although the negative health effects weren’t as obvious — given that the mother nurtured the baby inside her body until birth and continually transfused her fatty habits nutrition to her baby with more dramatic results — researchers established definite links between the high-fat diet rat fathers and the health of the baby rats.
The prime suspect, says Morris, is not a genetic mutation in the sperm’s DNA, but an “epigenetic” alteration in chemical tags on the DNA. These epigenetic tags help determine whether a gene is expressed, and they can be passed on to offspring. During sperm development, which is occurring constantly in the male, epigenetic marks are erased and replaced. Environmental factors such as diet may interfere with this process. [ScienceNOW]
The growing pile of information on the negative effects of a high-fat diet on the adult brain and body, is now expanding into increasingly concernful research on offspring of these parents. This is a subject that’s politically incorrect to discuss in America. But there is increasingly no doubt that the metabolic health decisions of the parents are transmitted to children before they can utter their first ‘no thank you’ to a biggie-size burger.