One study concludes that for a healthy child to be born, the man should eat few carbohydrates, few calories, and lots of protein.
When it comes to having a baby, it has always been said that the nutrition that the mother follows before and during pregnancy is fundamental to the future health of the newborn. Surprisingly, a recent study, published in the Royal Society’s flagship biological research journal and conducted at the University of Cincinnati (USA), concluded that the father nutrition is also essential at the time of conception so that the baby is healthy at birth.
It is known that the father is responsible for half of the genes of his offspring. And this study comes at a time when researchers are learning more about the influence that parents have on the health of their offspring and are not necessarily encoded in the genes and science: epigenetics. This branch studies the reading of genes and why some are active and others inactive, some modifications that may be due to external factors or to inheritance itself. These influences include direct environmental effects such as exposure to toxins that may affect semen, among other reasons.
According to this research, “those men who want to be parents have to avoid high carbohydrate diets and promote those rich in protein before they conceive. And start with a healthy diet, even before”. “In many species, mothers are in charge of caring for their offspring. So we expected that their diet had a great relevance in the future health of the newborns. It was a real surprise to find such a strong relationship between the father’s diet and his offspring at this stage,” Michal Polak, lead author, and professor at the University of Cincinnati in the United States, said in a statement.
A study developed with the fruit fly
The researchers carried out their study using an animal model with the fruit fly because it shares 60% of human genes and 75% of those that cause human diseases. And they tried to manipulate the nutrition of males and “this is how they discovered the strong correlation between poor diet and poor survival among their offspring”, according to the authors.
Geneticists from all over the world have mapped the entire genome of the fruit fly. “Over 150 years of study have made this small, modest fly into a good model system”, says Polak. A single one of these flies, for example, can lay 50 eggs per day or up to 2,000 in its short two-month life.
For the study, the team isolated females and males of the species Drosophila melanogaster, which is famous for its huge red eyes and high reproductive capacity. The researchers fed all the females with the same diet, but, on the contrary, the males with 30 different diets composed of different yeasts and sugars. Flies could eat as much as they wanted from the mix, but the quality of food varied drastically, from holding low to high concentrations of protein, carbohydrates, and calories.
“After 17 days with this type of diet, the males individually were consecutively matched with two females,” they continue in their explanation. So there were two pairings, “the second being more effective”. In addition, the authors found that the embryos most likely to survive, “were those whose parents’ diets were healthier”, they continue. The health effects, on the other hand, were less relevant, leading to a higher mortality rate for the future embryos, when “males had consumed diets high in carbohydrates and low in protein”. This effect also occurred among males that consumed many calories.
“We have shown that a good balance between macronutrients and caloric restriction in the diet of men has a significant effect on offspring and that these are more impacting when there has been a previous pairing”, they explain. So, according to the results, we know that for the health of the future baby, the mother’s diet is fundamental, but, now, we know that of the father as well. And that this must be healthy and constant from before, even, to consider having a baby. “The rule for a healthy child to be born, Dad should follow a low carbohydrate, low calorie and high protein diet”, according to this study.