Father's obesity 'can increase risk in at least two future generations'

15 July 2013

Obese fathers may pass on their susceptibility to unwanted weight gain to both their children and their grandchildren, new research suggests.

Scientists at the University of Adelaide carried out laboratory studies on mice to shed light on the inherited nature of obesity.

They discovered that the sperm of obese males carries molecular signals that can lead to obesity and diabetes-like symptoms in two generations of offspring, even if the children and grandchildren are healthy eaters.

The findings - which are published in the FASEB Journal - suggest that having an obese father could increase the risk of needing to diet regularly or undergo gastric band surgery in both children and grandchildren.

Lead author Dr Tod Fullston, from the university's Robinson Institute, explained that a man's diet alters the molecular make-up of his sperm.

"With obese fathers, the changes in their sperm - in their microRNA molecules - might programme the embryo for obesity or metabolic disease later in life," he revealed.

The expert added that while the health of a mother before, during and after pregnancy has long been known to influence her child's health, the father's health also appears to be "important".

Posted by Philip Briggs

 

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