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Medicine Science

You Are What Your Dad Ate 130

Posted by timothy
from the manner-of-speaking dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes "What a father eats before his child is conceived may influence the chance a baby will be born with a birth defect, a new study suggests. Much of the focus on how diet relates to birth has been done on moms. A father's diet before conception plays a crucial role in the health of his offspring, researchers in Canada suggest. Sarah Kimmins, a researcher at McGill University in Montreal, said the study focused on vitamin B9, also known as folate, which is found in green leafy vegetables, cereal, fruit and meat. The researchers found that the mouse offspring of folate-deficient fathers had a 30 percent increased risk of birth defects, compared to those offspring who had received a sufficient amount of folate."
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You Are What Your Dad Ate

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  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:06PM (#45673115)

    which is found in green leafy vegetables, cereal, fruit and meat.

    So, in pretty much EVERYTHING then?

    • Everything but Necco Wafers (so yeah, pretty much everything).
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:54PM (#45674297)

        I already told my wife that if she wants kids she will have to folate me.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What a father eats before his child is conceived

      Does this imply that I should save the thinking for AFTER dinner?

    • Well, most pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant are recommended to take folic acid daily; so the risk must be present even for the typical diet. I, for one, had never heard of a link between sperm quality (which is the root cause of the birth defects) and B9 deficiency. In fact, it's relatively rare that the father comes into picture at all when looking at birth defects so even if the deficiency hardly ever happened it would still be interesting news IMO.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Garridan (597129)

        In fact, it's relatively rare that the father's role in birth defects is even considered by scientists...

        FTFY. A lack of knowledge in this area is hardly surprising. A woman produces her eggs during puberty. A man produces his sperm daily. Ergo, day-to-day differences in a man's habits are likely to have a significant impact on his offspring.

        We know that heavy drinking during early pregnancy is bad... but what about the man's drinking before conception? What about other drugs?

        • by rrohbeck (944847)

          A woman's eggs were produced when she was a fetus, that's why you have epigenetic effects straight from the grandmother (who's nutrition determines the environment in the womb.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The problem is that people simply don't think about the fathers input. Sperm health is very dependent on diet. We have known this for at least centuries, and have come up with diets to improve the health long before we could see the things in a microscope.

        The difference is obviously that the man's diet plays very little role in the health of the baby after conception.

        The same can be said to some degree with diets in general. Eating right leads to better health. Eating crap leads to illness, obesity, etc

    • by Freshly Exhumed (105597) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:25PM (#45673353) Homepage

      So, in pretty much EVERYTHING then?

      Yes, but the levels of B9 may be benign.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      They're probably not found in twinkies.

    • by Optali (809880)

      Not exactly.
      Most people do not take enough leafy greens and whole cereals. And common supermarket meat can have a deficit in micronutrients because the cattle itself show this deficit (iron deficit in calves to give a "softer, whiter meat" ) or becomes deficient because of the processing.

      B12 deficiency is for instance not uncommon among the average meat eating population.

  • Given the average North American diet, that doesn't sound like a good thing. ;-)

    • Re:LOL ... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Nyder (754090) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:19PM (#45673271) Journal

      Given the average North American diet, that doesn't sound like a good thing. ;-)

      that's okay, this is slashdot, most of us aren't getting laid, so we don't have to worry about our cheetos/cherry coke sperm hitting anything but the keyboard...

      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        Hey, a pack of Cheetos contains 4% of your recommended daily intake of Niacin and Riboflavin.

        So my 25-pack/day Cheetos habit doesn't seem so dumb now, huh?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by NatasRevol (731260)

          Yeah, but you're not going to get laid looking *that* yellow.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I did say "average", thereby excluding most of us here.

        And, "eww" to that mental image.

        On the bright side, apparently masturbation has many health benefits [dailytech.com]. ;-)

  • by paiute (550198) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:10PM (#45673159)
    Likes long walks on the beach, romantic comedies, lots of kale.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Eat spinach before attempting to impregnate mice.

    alternatively...

    Popeye was right.

  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:14PM (#45673207)

    I am my mother?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I am my mother?

      There are Freudian analysts looking at this and thinking, "If only he were MY patient! I could afford to send my kid to Harvard - all expenses paid!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Nyder (754090)

      I am my mother?

      nope, you are a pussy.

      (really just kidding, but you set that up.)

    • So, this is why my kids like BlackJack and Hookers?

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:15PM (#45673215) Homepage Journal

    I wouldn't panic.

    If your dad was a hobo or only ate bratwurst, I might worry, but otherwise you're getting in a panic for no reason.

    Diet for males is also code in health study for marital status and stability. Both of which highly affect birth outcomes.

    • If your dad was a hobo or only ate bratwurst, I might worry, but otherwise you're getting in a panic for no reason.

      This explains Packers and Bears fans.

    • by Optali (809880)

      I sincerely doubt the Bratwurst part as only Bavarians can live only of Bratwurst and beer. And as it is a well established scientific fact Bavarians are not part of the Human species, thus chances of interbreeding are nil.

  • Call me paranoid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I may be totally off base, but I worked extra hard to eat right before my wife and I had our son. For some reason, I thought about the "you are what you eat" stuff, and I figured maybe a shitty diet could make my sperm crappy, for lack of a better word. He's pretty healthy and robust, so either I was on to something and/or I'm fortunate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      Most kids are healthy and happy. With a data sample of one it's hardly surprising that things turned out well. I can tell you this right now, it's much more important to your child's future that you cared than that it is that you changed your diet.

      • Re:Call me paranoid (Score:5, Informative)

        by dj245 (732906) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:18PM (#45673939) Homepage
        A lot of studies lately have been finding links between the Father's healthiness and birth defects. Everybody knows that as the age of a mother increases, the risks of potential problems also increases. But now we find that old dads [wikipedia.org] are as bad as, or maybe even worse than, old moms. I can easily see a future where potential dads are given exactly the same nutritional, lifestyle, and age advice as the women. Maybe they will even put us on neonatal vitamins.
        • But also, old dads produce longer living offspring [cbsnews.com] due to the fact that the sperm's telomeres lengthen with age. This is compounded when father and grandfather both have children later in life.

          The risk of mutation may be higher, but the reward of a healthy offspring is longer lifespan.

    • If your sperm was swimming in crap, you must have been REALLY confused on how to properly get your wife pregnant!

  • My dad's a cannibal

  • How is this news? In Europe obstetricians advise women to start taking folic acid (AKA vitamin B9) at least two months before trying to get pregnant. Isn't the same advice given in America?

    • Because we're now saying MEN need to start taking folic acid.
    • In Europe obstetricians advise women to start taking folic acid (AKA vitamin B9) at least two months before trying to get pregnant. Isn't the same advice given in America?

      Well I don't know about you guys, but in America the father is typically a male.

    • by paugq (443696)

      Replying to myself: obstetricians here ALSO recommend folic acid for fathers-to-be.

  • I have a special needs kid, so this topic has some interest for me, but I am not a doctor nor a scientist. That said, from an engineer's point of view, TFA doesn't seem to give context for the 30% figure. If the chances are nominally 100,000 to 1, a 30 percent increase makes it 76,923 to one, which is still, for an individual, highly unlikely. I've also heard that the incidence of people being hit by a falling piano is up 100% this year.

    All I'm saying is that the 30% figure sounds good as a headline, but

    • by compro01 (777531)

      If they're talking about birth defects in general, I believe the rate is something like 3% in the USA, so a 30% kick on that would increase the risk to 3.9%.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        If they're talking about birth defects in general, I believe the rate is something like 3% in the USA, so a 30% kick on that would increase the risk to 3.9%.

        Good! That's good information. So, the next question might be, are we talking about a 30% increase in all kinds of birth defects, or a 30% increase in only certain kinds of defects? If the types of defects in question are themselves rare *for defects*, we still may be talking about a vanishingly small number.

    • I've also heard that the incidence of people being hit by a falling piano is up 100% this year.

      You're statistically more likely to be adopted by Angelina Jolie than hit by a falling piano.

      So there's that.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        Yeah, in 2007 my chances of being adopted by Angelina Jolie went up 33%. I wonder what she's going to name me.

  • As I've already heard that mouse's brain chemistry is close to ours, is there really much correlation in offspring genesis too?

    I may be too skeptical, but I would remain calm even if I was trying to get my lady pregnant and eating junk-food.

    • by Optali (809880)

      but I would remain calm even if I was trying to get my lady pregnant and eating junk-food

      Hell, that would be a hit in Porntube!!!

  • Then I'm mostly composed of beer........
    (and not necessarily a bad thing)

    • beer, pickled eggs, and pork rinds... you would think that would make me like watching football or nascar but it didn't.

  • My daughter must be made of curry, for that's what I ate the night she was conceived. Funny though, she hates curry herself.
    • Curry is an odd name for a woman, but let me reassure you that's it's normal for her daughter to hate her.

      Especially if mom followed family tradition and named her Noodle.

  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot AT keirstead DOT org> on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:55PM (#45673727) Homepage

    One of the primary ingredients in pre-natal vitamins is folate, because it is so important for the fetus. I wonder if this research indicates that fathers trying to conceive should also take pre-natal vitamins.

    • You wonder, do you?

      Perhaps read the summary then.

      • by brunes69 (86786)

        I did read the summary, and every single linked article. None of the above has a recommendation in it for men to take pre-natal vitamins.

        Thanks for the snarky response though, it was very helpful... not.

        • Seriously?

          The summary says this "The researchers found that the mouse offspring of folate-deficient fathers had a 30 percent increased risk of birth defects, compared to those offspring who had received a sufficient amount of folate."

          If that's not a suggestion to make sure you have enough folate, then I don't know what is. Do you want someone to literally spell it out for you?

          • by efitton (144228)
            Do you think folate is the only thing in a prenatal vitamin? Quantities and other vitamins are also important. I would not take a prenatal vitamin because I probably already have an excess of iron; prenatals have a large dose. In other words, snarky but wrong.
          • by ranton (36917)

            Seriously?

            The summary says this "The researchers found that the mouse offspring of folate-deficient fathers had a 30 percent increased risk of birth defects, compared to those offspring who had received a sufficient amount of folate."

            If that's not a suggestion to make sure you have enough folate, then I don't know what is. Do you want someone to literally spell it out for you?

            How does the summary suggest taking pre-natal vitamins at all? The story does not say anything about how drastic the folate-deficiency has to be, or how poor a diet has to be to have folate-deficiency. Perhaps all it takes is eating one steak per year to get enough folate. The summary lists so many things that have folate that anyone who eats more than just Skittles may get plenty. It also may be very easy to be folate-deficient, but the story doesn't mention that at all.

            The study is just showing that it is

            • It's possible to make inferences without the article making an explicit recommendation. If someone tells you that it's dangerous to walk blindfolded in heavy traffic, can't you infer that you shouldn't do it?
              • by ranton (36917)

                It's possible to make inferences without the article making an explicit recommendation. If someone tells you that it's dangerous to walk blindfolded in heavy traffic, can't you infer that you shouldn't do it?

                It is possible to make inferences, but that doesn't mean you should make some that aren't held up by the actual science. His inference is like if he read a study that says some lab mice who walked blind folded in heavy traffic died, and then he inferred that he shouldn't wear sun glasses since those also impair vision somewhat.

                This is exactly how bad science about things like climate change or child vaccinations start. By taking early research and blowing it out of proportion.

              • If folate is one of those things with a relatively small range between beneficial amounts and toxicity, no, it isn't.

  • The brief is somewhat misleading. It's only found in large amounts in the liver. Most meat has little. Beans and leafy greens are the best sources, but with fortification it's probably not much of a concern for any American.
  • by n1ywb (555767) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:28PM (#45674037) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to know if they controlled for the MOTHER's folate level. Afterall, if the mom and dad live together and eat a similar diet, and HE's deficient, it stands to reason that the mom is probably deficient also. None of TFA's seem to talk about it.
    • My wife and I may eat a similar standard of food, but by no means would we have the same meals. Working in different places, we eat different lunches. She likes mushrooms while I do not. If we eat out we don't order the same dishes.

      She also does not eat the same quantities of food as I do, so there may be a greater risk that she misses out on certain vitamin thresholds. That said, I'm not a big eater of salad, while she loves green leafy dishes.

      No, you can by no means assume that mom and dad have the same d

  • You Are What Your Dad Ate

    Well, that explaons why you're a dick!

    Waitress, another Lon-guh Island ice tea please.

  • ...what your mom didn't!
  • Dad was a Rugged Man. Rugged, ate meat that was still mooing, Smoked Cuban Cigars and swilled the finest Whiskey.

    Explains why I keep trying to refill myself with Johnny Walker Blue.

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