Fellas, scientists are handing you another reason to slim down and steer clear of the infamous dad-bod: new research suggests that baby girls who are conceived when their fathers are overweight could face a 30 per cent higher risk of developing breast cancer later on in life.
While the maternal role in child development has been painstakingly researched, studying the link between paternal health and baby’s risk factors is a burgeoning field of research. In the latest findings, out of Georgetown University in Washington, scientists say a dad’s weight should be factored in if parents are hoping to have a daughter with a healthy weight – at least in mice models.
“This study provides evidence that, in animals, a father’s body weight at the time of conception affects both their daughters’ body weight both at birth and in childhood as well as their risk of breast cancer later in life,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Sonia de Assis, said in a statement.
“Of course our study was done in mice, but it recapitulates recent findings in humans which show that obese men have significant epigenetic alterations in their sperm compared to lean men,” she explained.
Both obesity and breast cancer risk have ties to family history, the study notes. Previous research has already warned that women who are overweight in pregnancy could end up delivering larger babies, who have an increased risk of breast cancer later in life, too.
To look at the risk from paternal health, de Assis and her team worked with obese male mice and female mice that had a normal weight. Some of their female pups were overweight at birth and throughout their childhood, but they also grappled with a delayed development of their breast tissue and increased rates of breast cancer as they got older.
The scientists say theirs is one of the first animal studies to zero in on the effects of paternal weight on future generations’ cancer risk.
Their guess is that being overweight tampers with the microRNA signature – one of the regulators of gene expression – in both the dad’s sperm and daughter’s breast tissue. The team warns that the microRNA could carry important genetic information from obese dads to their daughters.
De Assis’ next steps are to figure out if these same links apply to human dads who are overweight while conceiving.
“Until we know about this association in men, we should stick to what we all know is good advice: women – and men – should eat a balanced diet, keep a healthy body weight and lifestyle not only for their own benefit but also to give their offspring the best chances of being healthy,” she said.
Last year, McGill University scientists said that daddy’s diet is critical to a baby’s healthy development.
That study urged men to load up on folic acid, found in leafy greens, such as spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and some meats and fortified cereals.
De Assis’ full findings were published this past weekend in the journal Scientific Reports.