The impact of paternal obesity on the children’s genes
Ominous, I would say. Kate Yandell reports in The Scientist:
Being born to an obese father is associated with epigenetic abnormalities, according to a study published in BMC Medicine yesterday (February 6). Children with obese fathers have different epigenetic markings on the gene for insulin-type growth factor 2 (IGF2)—which is important during fetal growth and development—than children with fathers of normal weight.
“During pregnancy, the mother has to be careful what she eats and drinks, et cetera, but in general, not much is published about the effects of the father,” said lead author Adelheid Soubry, a molecular biologist at Duke University, who suspects that the more than 2 months it takes for sperm to mature are an important window of paternal influence.
Scientists have shown in human studies that some diseases are linked to parents’ environments prior to their children’s birth, but “this is one of the first papers that shows a true epigenetic shift,” said University of Washington biologist Michael Skinner, who was not involved in the study.
The link between parental condition and the epigenetics and health of children is not entirely new. A 2010 Nature paper showed that male rats on a high-fat diet fathered pups that were at elevated risk of developing diabetes, possibly because of epigenetic changes. And a 2008 study showed that Dutch children born during a winter of famine during World War II had different IGF2 methylation than their siblings not born during the famine.
Inspired by these findings, Soubry and her colleagues analyzed umbilical cord blood from 79 babies born in 2005 and 2006 to mothers enrolled in the Newborn Epigenetic STudy (NEST) at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. Participating mothers filled out a detailed questionnaire, including information about the height and weight of their children’s fathers.
Children with obese fathers were likely to have . .