Dad To Be Diet And Lifestyle
For long, it has been believed that excellent maternal health is all what you need for a healthy conception and uncomplicated childbirth. But according to a new study, diet and overall physical health of father-to-be also plays a very strong role in the development and long-term health of the baby.
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada have concluded that since 50% of the genetic information is contributed by the father (via sperm); the overall fitness and health of father-to-be can strongly impact the development of fetus (1).
Essentials Of Dad-To-Be Diet And Lifestyle:
1. Consumption of diet rich in Folate:
Healthcare providers encourage mothers to consume sufficient quantities of folate before getting pregnant as well as during pregnancy. However, little research has been conducted to study the role of folate supplementation in fathers until recently.
The Research team led by Sarah Kimmins in the Montreal study suggested that folate supplementation helps in the stability of genomes and delivery of biochemical tags that are required to turn-on or turn-off genes.
Laboratory study conducted on mice explained that birth defects are more likely to occur in offspring born to folate- deficient mice fathers as opposed to those who were fed a diet high in folate. Investigators also suggested that folate deficiency can increase the risk of developing various anomalies like spinal deformities and cranio-facial defects by 30% in the offspring. In addition, there is also an increase likelihood of developing serious health issues such as schizophrenia, cancer, autism and diabetes later in life due to abnormal expression of more than 300 genes (1).
Folate (also known as Vitamin B-9) can be obtained from green leafy vegetables as well as meat, cereals and fruits. Besides folate, dad-to-be should also consider consuming other essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, E, selenium, Vitamin C, Magnesium and B complex.
2. Normal calorie intake:
It is very important to consume adequate calories in the diet to maintain normal metabolism. A new study reported in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism (2) suggested that diet-induced obesity can alter the expression of genes in the sperms; thereby aggravating the risk of passing on metabolic diseases like obesity in the offspring. Obesity in males can also aggravate the risk of following health issues:
- Insulin resistance
- Impaired glucose homeostasis
- Chronic degenerative disorders
- Premature aging
Several research studies have statistically proven that female offspring born to obese fathers have a tendency to get obese due to abnormal metabolism of a powerful regulatory hormone leptin (2).
3. Regular physical activity:
Adequate physical activity is not only required for the maintenance of normal body weight but also for the optimal regulation of metabolism. Exercise improves the circulation to reproductive organs, improve libido, enhance sexual vigor and build stamina that aids in healthy sexual activity. Dads who work-out regularly have adequate testosterone levels in addition to other hormones.
4. Limitation of alcohol and cigarette smoking:
Females who are looking to become pregnant are strictly asked to avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking due to high risk of deleterious effects on the growing fetus. However, according to another study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (3) suggested that paternal smoking is associated with a high risk of cancer among the offspring of non-smoking mothers.
According to another study reported in Teratology journal (4), investigators concluded after thorough statistical analysis that history paternal smoking is associated with an increased risk of various anomalies in the offspring such as; pulmonic stenosis, nasal aplasia, preauricular cyst, urethral stenosis, hemangioma, cleft palate, and hydrocephalus. The risk of complications increases several fold in fathers who are old or consume alcohol and other drugs.
Who Should Consider Folate And Other Nutritional Supplements?
Men who are looking to start their families soon, should consider discussing with their healthcare professional if they require one or more of the supplements listed above:
- Men with a metabolic condition (such as obesity) as metabolism or utilization of micronutrients is higher in such individuals.
- Men who are under the recommended weight limit for age.
- Men who have poor dietary intake of essential nutrients due to a health issues (gut conditions like IBD or gut resection surgery) or poor availability.
- Men who consume too much junk food or high-fat diet as these men are unable to digest/ metabolize dietary nutrients efficiently.
1. Lambrot, R., Xu, C., Saint-Phar, S., Chountalos, G., Cohen, T., Paquet, M., … & Kimmins, S. (2013). Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes. Nature communications, 4.
2. McPherson, N. O., Owens, J. A., Fullston, T., & Lane, M. (2015). Preconception diet or exercise intervention in obese fathers normalizes sperm microRNA profile and metabolic syndrome in female offspring. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 308(9), E805-E821.
3. Ji, B. T., Shu, X. O., Zheng, W., Ying, D. M., Linet, M. S., Wacholder, S., … & Jin, F. (1997). Paternal cigarette smoking and the risk of childhood cancer among offspring of nonsmoking mothers. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 89(3), 238-243.
4. Savitz, D. A., Schwingl, P. J., & Keels, M. A. (1991). Influence of paternal age, smoking, and alcohol consumption on congenital anomalies. Teratology, 44(4), 429-440.