Women trying to conceive are often given advice to keep a healthy diet, cut back on things like alcohol and caffeine, and up their vitamin intake. But moms aren't the only ones who need to watch what they eat. Dads' diets impact child health later in life, according to a recent study from the University of Nottingham's Schools of Medicine and Biosciences. The team of researchers found that low protein intake can lead to poor metabolic health in offspring.
The study, published in PNAS, looked at the sperm and seminal fluid from male mice fed a low protein diet and found that the lack of protein impacted their offspring's metabolic health. The team was led by Dr. Adam Watkins, Assistant Professor in Reproductive Biology at the University of Nottingham led the study.
Watkins told Science Daily that his findings call for an increase of available information for men wishing to become fathers. "It is well understood that what a mother eats during pregnancy can affect the development and health of her child," he said. And while there is a surplus of information available for women wishing to conceive as far as health and diet, "little, if any, advice is available for the father."
He went on to explain that the study shows how important it is for dads to be conscious as well:
Our research using mice shows that at the time of conception, the diet and well-being of the father influences the long-term growth and metabolic health of his offspring. Our study not only identifies what impact a poor paternal diet has on the health of his offspring but also starts to uncover how these effects are established.
Along with a healthy intake of protein to boost children's metabolic rate, men wishing to have children should focus on other aspects of their diets as well. There are a variety of vitamins and nutrients that contribute to sperm health. Folic acid is known to be an important nutrient for expecting mothers, but men should prioritize it, too, according to Parents. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that men with low levels of folic acid intake had a higher rate of chromosomal abnormalities in their sperm, which can cause birth defects of even miscarriage, Parents reported.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine suggests that men should strive to take in a balanced, varied, and nutritious diet with plenty of fish, vegetables, and whole grains in order to have active sperm. Baby Center recommends that they take in foods with plenty of vitamin C and other antioxidants to prevent defects and boost mobility in sperm. Additionally, zinc deficiencies can cause sperm to clump together and contribute to infertility in man, Baby Center reported.
Along with foods to include, there are certain things that men should avoid or limit to boost sperm health. Motherly lists processed meats — such as bacon, ham, sausage, hot dogs, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, and meat sauces — as well as alcohol, caffeine, and soda as those that can contribute to a low sperm count. Instead of a cup of coffee or a cold beer, choose water to stay happy and hydrated.
Kevin Sinclair, Professor of Developmental Biology in the School of Biosciences, who worked along side Watkins on this study told Science Daily that the role of sperm in reproduction shouldn't be overlooked. "It is important to recognize that sperm contribute more than just half of the genes that make up a child," he said. "Our study shows that the composition of seminal plasma can be altered by father's diet, and that this can also influence offspring wellbeing."
The findings of this study contribute to a small but growing pool of data that can empower men to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.