Want another reason to watch your weight and diet? If so, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s FASEB online journal published a research report last year on obesity in rats that appears to provide another good reason for you to be mindful of your diet and weight. The scientists who conducted this rat study suggest that a biological link exists between paternal diet, bodyweight and health at the time of conception and the well-being and health of his offspring. Researchers were able to develop this idea by studying rats and the health of their offspring.

Margaret Morris, Ph.D., at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, states that for the most part, scientists have been focusing on how the maternal diet impacts the health of her children. Now, this study, as with other new research in this field, explores the effects of the paternal diet on the risk of obesity in the children. She suggests the importance of following up on current findings to further learn about when and how to intervene in attempts to reduce the impact that poor paternal metabolic health has on his offspring.

In conducting this study, two groups of male rats were used by Morris and colleagues. The first group was healthy, lean and fed a normal diet, whereas the second group was diabetic, obese and fed a high-fat diet. Both groups were then mated with lean female rats. Then, the researchers examined their offspring. The rats born from obese fathers fed a high-fat diet were observed to have an impaired ability when responding to a glucose challenge. This was the case even though the offspring were fed a healthy diet after birth. Moreover, the obese male rats’ offspring also showed changes in gene expression in their fat tissue and pancreatic islets responsible for producing insulin that controls blood glucose regulation. The changes in gene expression occurred in two important metabolic tissues – pancreas and fat. The altered gene expression may lead to an increased risk of future obesity and premature aging. Other genes were also affected including markers of cancer, chronic degenerative disease and premature aging.