What’s good for the goose is good for the gander

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Overweight men could pass on ‘fat traits’ in their sperm

Many articles have been published about the influence a female’s weight has on her ability to conceive. One of the reasons many women come to us for weight loss surgery is because they are desperate to start a family and the first thing their obstetrician has told them to do is to get their weight down to a healthy level. We know that being overweight and obese impacts fertility and we have several women who have had surgery and then go on to fall pregnant. Here is a link to just one example: Victoria.

There is no need to repeat the fertility benefits of weight loss surgery here, but you may be interested to read that a male’s weight can have an impact on the behaviour of the child.

For many years women have known that when pregnant they need to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and to lead a healthy life as these can affect the unborn baby. Well, there is new research to show that men have an impact on the baby also through their sperm. We suspected, but didn’t know, that men’s sperm can influence the behavioural traits of babies. 

The research was completed at the university of Copenhagen in Denmark. It involved a study of male sperm before, during and after weight loss surgery, specifically, the gastric bypass. The research found over 5,000 changes after surgery affecting sperm cell DNA, including ‘dramatic remodelling’ of areas involved in appetite. 

Professor Pacey, from the University of Sheffield, said ‘This is an interesting study which provides further evidence to support the theory that some characteristics can be passed by sperm from a father to a child, without altering the basic structure of the genetic code’.  

His study is small so more research is needed but his observations do fit with several other studies related to weight and children. Mothers who were pregnant during a 1944 famine in the Netherlands were more likely to have children prone to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Female mice that were underfed during pregnancy gave birth to pups that have a higher chance of developing diabetes. Their male pups actually had a change in their sperm too, so as to signal to the next generation whether food is plentiful or scarce. 

More research is needed to fully understand this research but the evidence is there to suggest fathers of a healthy and with healthy diets pass on those traits to their children. Hence the headline for this article, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Men need to consider the impact their diet and health have on the baby when trying to conceive just as much as their partners

Picture of Martyn Berrett

Martyn Berrett

Martyn is the former MD of Healthier Weight. Throughout his tenure he observed many bariatric procedures and took part in several research projects so has a unique perspective on all things weight loss.

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