A growing epidemic, if the research statistics are anything to go by, childhood and adult obesity is one of those topics that urgently requires our understanding – and scientists may have come a step closer to cracking the code.
According to research carried out in Denmark, obesity may be passed on to a child through their father’s sperm.
As part of the study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen examined the sperm of both lean and obese men as well as those undergoing weight-loss surgery.
In all three groups, the team found a range of chemical changes (called epigenetic markers) that can switch genes on or off – and these genes can be passed on from parent to offspring.
Furthermore, the team found that the epigenetic markers were most different between the groups in parts of the DNA associated with eating patterns.
In the case of six obese men who were undergoing weight-loss surgery, the team found that a dramatic shift in weight drastically changed sequences in the reproductive cells.
Now, the experts are calling for men who are starting a family to watch their weight and dietary patterns, and aim for a healthier approach where possible.
Commenting on the findings, lead researcher Dr Roman Barres said: “It’s common knowledge that when a woman is pregnant she should take care of herself – not drink alcohol, stay away from pollutants, etc. – but if the implication of our study holds true, then recommendations should be directed towards men, too.”
“Environmental factors or lifestyle have the potential to change the heritable [passed down from parent to child] information we have in our sperm,” he added.