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How dad’s health changes future generations

The importance of male preconception care

Article by Laurence Katsaras, Clinical Resources Manager, Metagenics


His responsibility begins before the big event

Emerging evidence has demonstrated that the embryo retains epigenetic tags from both parents, and it is now well established that the father’s health significantly influences that of the developing child, as much as the mother’s. This has been supported by epidemiological and animal studies that prove that the nutritional status of the father and lifestyle factors such as body composition, toxin exposure and stress levels can impact the metabolic, neuro-development and immune health in the child.  These epigenetic influences not only affect the offspring in their childhood but can also contribute to their disease risk later in life.  Given the influence that the father has upon the child’s health, his responsibility as a father should start at least three months prior to conception with preconception care that addressed nutritional status and lifestyle factors to enhance the epigenetic programming in the child.

Does it really matter?

Epidemiological studies have shown that the father’s present and past health can actually be carried across to the child.  For instance, historical records from Överkalix, Sweden, demonstrated that the food supply of paternal grandfathers in the years before puberty was associated with longevity and deaths caused by diabetes in their grandchildren.

Inspired by this observation, researchers investigated whether prepubertal paternal smoking could influence an offspring’s phenotype.  They found that if fathers had begun smoking before the age of 11 years, their sons had a higher body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and body fat mass in adolescence.1  Furthermore, the metabolic health of a father may also have a long lasting influence on his offspring.  We know, for instance, that obese fathers have children with a greater risk of insulin resistance, obesity and subfertility.  Of course, this could be explained by the children being exposed to the same diet as their father, however, the sperm of obese men display markedly different epigenetic profiles when compared to lean men, subbesting that epigenetics may also be at play.2  With such established findings, soon-to-be fathers need to be encouraged to participate in preconception planning and pull their weight.

It’s never too late to do the right thing

With an increased understanding around epigenetic effects from the father, it is hard to deny the importance of supporting dad’s health prior to conception.  While the health practitioner may not be able to change what the father did in his teen years, nutritional and lifestyle interventions during the preconception period can create positive epigenetic alterations in the sperm and reduce disease risk in the offspring.  Sperm epigenetic changes can occur via three mechanisms:3

  • changing the way genes are packed and stored in the histone through histone modification/
  • silencing of genes by DNA methylation; and by
  • altering the translation of gene reading by micro RNA(mRNA) changes.

The following image shows the most established environmental and lifestyle factors that negatively impact the epigenome and the associated increases in disease risk:

Improving dad’s genome

In addition to ensuring adequate nutrient levels which includes both minerals and vitamins, methylation and oxidative stress must also be addressed.

There are also several lifestyle factors that should be addressed as part of preconception care. While any positive lifestyle intervention may have a beneficial impact, studies have shown that body composition, toxic load and stress are the top priorities.

Enhancing the father’s health with essential nutrients and improving lifestyle practices before conception will give the child the best start to life.  Such improvements in sperm health and epigenetic markers will not only enhance the health of the child from infancy through to adulthood, but studies have shown that the inherited epigenome is likely to be passed down to future generations.19

Therefore, three short months of intervention, can help his child and grandchildren have a happier, healthier life.  What father wouldn’t want that?

Contact us at True Medicine for your pre-conception check up and healthy epigenome plan. 

Phone 07 5530 1863 today.