We know that when expecting mothers eat well and exercise, it has a positive impact on baby’s health. But what about dad’s food and activity habits? What impact do they have on the health of his kids? The answers to those questions might surprise you.
If dad hits the gym and cleans up his diet, it may have a significant impact on the health of his children, both in the short-term and even into their adulthood. At least, that’s what one study tells us.
Kristin Stanford, a physiology and cell biology researcher at the Ohio State University College of Medicine at the Wexner Medical Center, led a study that found that the exercise and nutrition habits of fathers strongly impacted the metabolic health of their children well into their adult years. The study was co-led by Laurie Goodyear of the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School.
The study and its’ findings were published in the journal Diabetes.
“This work is an important step in learning about metabolic disease and prevention at the cellular level,” said Dr. K. Craig Kent, dean of the Ohio State College of Medicine.
Previous research has made the connection between poor diets on the part of parents, expectant and beyond, and impaired metabolic health and type 2 diabetes. We also have increasing amounts of evidence showing that fathers play a crucial role in metabolic programming and obesity in their children.
Stanford and her team used a mouse model to investigate the impact of a father’s exercise regimen on the metabolic health of his offspring. Male mice were fed either a high-fat diet or a balanced diet for three weeks. Some of the mice from each group were allowed to exercise freely, while the remainder were kept sedentary.
After the three-week period, the mice bred. Their offspring were then fed a balanced diet under sedentary conditions for a year.
It was noted that the adult offspring from the group of males allowed to exercise exhibited decreased fat mass and body weight, along with improved glucose metabolism.
“Here’s what’s really interesting; offspring from the dads fed a high-fat diet fared worse, so they were more glucose intolerant. But exercise negated that effect,” Stanford said. “When the dad exercised, even on a high-fat diet, we saw improved metabolic health in their adult offspring.”
The researcher also noted that exercise led to changes in the genetic expression of the sperm of the fathers which suppressed poor dietary effects and the transfer of those effects to their offspring.
“We saw a strong change in their small-RNA profile. Now we want to see exactly which small-RNAs are responsible for these metabolic improvements, where it’s happening in the offspring and why,” Stanford said.
These same researchers have already published research showing that when mouse moms exercise, their offspring benefit from positive metabolic impacts.
“Based on both studies, we’re now determining if both parents exercising has even greater effects to improve metabolism and overall health of offspring. If translated to humans, this would be hugely important for the health of the next generation,” Goodyear said.
Stanford and her team believe their findings support the hypothesis that small RNAs help transmit environmental information from the parents to the next generation.
“There’s potential for this to translate to humans. We know that in adult men obesity impairs testosterone levels, sperm number and motility, and it decreases the number of live births,” Stanford said. “If we ask someone who’s getting ready to have a child to exercise moderately, even for a month before conception, that could have a strong effect on the health of their sperm and the long-term metabolic health of their children.”
If you are a man who has kids or is planning to have kids, you may want to hit the gym and clean up your dietary act. A solid exercise program and good diet may make it easier to have children as well as bless them with a more positive metabolic future!
Keep the faith and keep after it!
Journal Reference – Kristin I. Stanford, Morten Rasmussen, Lisa A. Baer, Adam C. Lehnig, Leslie A. Rowland, Joseph D. White, Kawai So, Ana Luisa De Sousa-Coehlo, Michael F. Hirshman, Mary-Elizabeth Patti, Oliver J. Rando, Laurie J. Goodyear. Paternal Exercise Improves Glucose Metabolism in Adult Offspring. Diabetes, 2018; db180667 DOI: 10.2337/db18-0667