Cincinnati Children's Blog

Healthy eating before pregnancy important – for dads?

Pregnant moms carry most of the responsibility for an unborn baby’s health. They’re the ones taking prenatal vitamins, drinking more milk, being more careful with their diet. But dads aren’t off the hook, says a Chicago Tribune article referencing a recent study.

The study shows a direct link between dads’ diets and the health of their future children. Fathers with high-fat diets are more likely to produce daughters with impaired glucose tolerance and insulin secretion. Think: pre-diabetes.

At least that’s what rats are showing us.

In an Australian study, researchers fed a group of male rats high-fat food. They fed other male rats healthy food. Both groups mated with female rats that also ate healthy food. Then researchers studied the female offspring.

The daughter rats with overweight fathers showed signs of prediabetes. And their problems with glucose and insulin levels got worse over time. Researchers drew a connection to more than 600 insulin-affecting genes that looked different in the daughters of overweight rats compared to daughters of healthy rats.

At Cincinnati Children’s, we’ve always said parents need to set a good example for their kids. Healthy parents who eat healthy food tend to raise healthy children who eat healthy food.

But this study shows a deeper correlation. The effect of parents’ dietary habits can be passed along genetically to future generations.

As healthcare professionals, we need to let expectant or soon-to-be-expectant fathers know that eating healthfully isn’t just a lifestyle to model once children are home. It leaves a legacy long before then.

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