Houston, Texas, USA : Men who want to have children in the near future should consider hitting the gym.
In a new study led by Kristin Stanford, a physiology and cell biology researcher with The Ohio State University College of Medicine at the Wexner Medical Center, paternal exercise had a significant impact on the metabolic health of offspring well into their adulthood.
Laurie Goodyear of the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School co-led the study, published today 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.
Recent studies have linked development of type 2 diabetes and impaired metabolic health to the parents’ poor diet, and there is increasing evidence that fathers play an important role in obesity and metabolic programming of their offspring.
Stanford is a member of Ohio State’s Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center. Her team investigated how a father’s exercise regimen would affect his offspring’s metabolic health. Using a mouse model, they fed male mice either a normal diet or a high-fat diet for three weeks. Some mice from each diet group were sedentary and some exercised freely. After three weeks, the mice bred and their offspring ate a normal diet under sedentary conditions for a year.
The researchers report that adult offspring from sires who exercised had improved glucose metabolism, decreased body weight and a decreased fat mass.
“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.”
Stanford’s team also found that exercise caused changes in the genetic expression of the father’s sperm that suppress poor dietary effects and transfer to the 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.
Previous studies from this group have shown that when mouse mothers exercise, their offspring also have beneficial effects of metabolism.
“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.
The researchers believe the results support the hypothesis that small RNAs could help transmit parental environmental information 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.”
Video : A new study finds that, while a father’s high-fat diet results in poor metabolic traits in their offspring, exercise can completely reverse those negative effects
Video credit: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
A separate study found that a father’s diet could affect the long-term health of his offspring.
Father’s diet could affect the long-term health of his offspring
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.
The study—’Paternal diet programs offspring health through sperm- and seminal plasma-specific pathways in mice’—carried out at the University of Nottingham fed male mice a poor quality diet which resulted in their offspring becoming over weight, with symptoms of type 2 diabetes and reduced expression of genes which regulate the metabolism of fat.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham’s Schools of Medicine and Biosciences have 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 offspring.
There has been much research showing that sperm from men who are overweight, smoke, drink excessively or who have type 2 diabetes are often of poorer quality than sperm from healthy, fertile men. However, little is known about the impact of such lifestyle factors on the long-term health of a father’s offspring. This new study bridges this gap in our understanding by using a mouse model to explore the long-term growth and metabolic health of offspring from males fed a poor quality diet.
Improving dietary advice given to prospective fathers
Dr. Adam Watkins, Assistant Professor in Reproductive Biology at the University of Nottingham led the study. He said: “It is well understood that what a mother eats during pregnancy can affect the development and health of her child. As such, there is a lot of information available to women who want to become pregnant about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and good dietary choices both for their own health and that of their child. 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”.
The study, carried out on mice, found that males fed a low-protein diet 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. The researchers believe that the health of a father’s offspring is affected both by the quality of a father’s genetic information passed on within the sperm at conception, and by the seminal plasma-primed maternal uterine environment in which the embryo will develop.
Kevin Sinclair, Professor of Developmental Biology in the School of Biosciences, who collaborated on this study said: “It is important to recognise that sperm contribute more than just half of the genes that make up a child. During natural conception sperm deposited in the female reproductive tract are bathed in seminal plasma which can in itself influence pregnancy outcomes. Our study shows that the composition of seminal plasma can be altered by father’s diet, and that this can also influence offspring wellbeing”.
Citation for the second study: Adam J. Watkins et al, Paternal diet programs offspring health through sperm- and seminal plasma-specific pathways in mice, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1806333115