Dad’s diet before conception can affect child’s health

It’s not just mums who should eat well before pregnancy, say researchers

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What a father-to-be eats before conception could affect his child’s health.

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So say Canadian researchers, whose study suggests that, when it comes to planning a baby, it’s not just down to the woman to eat healthily before conception.

It is already well known that, in order to help prevent miscarriages and birth defects, hopeful mothers-to-be should try to consume adequate amounts of folic acid (found in foods such as leafy green veg, chickpeas and brown rice). But this is the first time, say the researchers, that there’s evidence to suggest that a man’s folic-acid levels may be just as important to the development and health of the baby as those of the mother.

“Guys need to pay attention to what they’re doing, in terms of lifestyle choices, prior to having a baby, just like the woman does,” said lead researcher Sarah Kimmins, from McGill University.

The team’s findings come from research on mice but the researchers are confident that they’re applicable to humans, too. And, in the mice they studied, the offspring of males with a low-folate diet in males were more likely to have birth defects, including spinal malformations, cranio-facial defects, underdeveloped fingers and toes and club feet.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to tell guys you need to start taking a folic-acid supplement [like many pregnant women and women who are trying to conceive do],” says Kimmins, “because we don’t know what the right dose is. But I think we can say. ‘Let’s start paying attention to a male’s preconception health.'”

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“Our research suggests that fathers need to think about what they put in their mouths, what they smoke and what they drink. And remember they are caretakers of generations to come.”

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