Sunday, November 19, 2017
Health

Listen up, dads: Obesity makes your sperm weird

RECOMMENDED READING


A new study adds to the growing pile of evidence that men should worry about their prenatal health, too: Their sperm may carry epigenetic markers that can help determine the weight of their offspring. The research is still in its early stages, so you can't go blaming Dad for every french fry you eat. But it's becoming clearer that there's more to parenthood than just genes - the state of your body at the moment of conception may carry a lot of weight for your child's future.

The new research, published Thursday in Cell Metabolism, had a small sample size of just 10 lean men and 13 obese men - so we need to take these findings with a grain of salt. But the researchers found that the sperm cells of lean and obese men had different epigenetic marks - especially in gene regions associated with controlling appetite.

"The code itself didn't change," Romain Barrès, an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the study, told The Washington Post. The genes themselves were still the same. But the epigenetic marks that control how a gene is expressed had changed. Similar changes related to weight loss have been seen in studies done on mice. And in an observational study published in 2005, researchers found that the famished lifestyles of Swedish grandparents could be correlated to their grandchildren's tendency for cardiometabolic disease.

"Because this happened in such a short time, it couldn't be caused by a mutation," Barrès, who was inspired by the Swedish study, explained. "But it was two generations after the famine, so it was something that persisted."

That Swedish study didn't go so far as to look for the epigenetic markers that might be responsible for the changes. Barrès' study is, in some ways, reversed: He can't prove that children born from these obese men actually eat more or have a tendency to be obese. He hasn't shown the effect, but he's found a cellular mechanism that could be a smoking gun.

The new research also offers a potential ray of hope for heavier dads: In a small follow-up of six obese men undergoing weight-loss surgery, the researchers found that 5,000 or so of 9,000 markers associated with obesity went away within a year.

"The environment itself - we don't know if its the surgery, the inflammation associated with the surgery, the change of stomach size, the weight loss - something is changing the epigenetic content of the sperm cell," Barrès said.

While further study is needed, the implications are clear.

"The environment can change what your sperm cell carries, and it's not random," Barrès said. "The implication of this is that these changes will be transmitted to the egg, and maybe change how the embryo will develop, and maybe change how the child will develop. We don't know this is so. We haven't looked."

Adelheid Soubry, a University of Leuven researcher who's worked on similar research but wasn't involved in the new study, pointed out that a larger study group would be needed to confirm the data. She also emphasized that the potential implications of the epigenetic markers had yet to actually be demonstrated.

The researchers hope to follow up with a more extensive study - one that allows them to follow the process from man to sperm to embryo to child. In Denmark, embryos created for in-vitro fertilization must be used for research after five years, by law. So Barrès and his colleagues can study discarded embryos, the sperm of the men who fathered them, and the cord blood of siblings who were brought to term. That's obviously quite the undertaking, so don't expect a definitive answer on the sperm epigenetics of obesity any time soon.

But even if their work doesn't show a causal link between paternal obesity and overeating, it's becoming increasingly clear that dads have as much to get anxious over as moms when it comes time to conceive. Studies have shown that older men may put their children at higher risk of certain diseases, for example. Now it seems that environmental factors might also come into play.

"We knew already that an unhealthy diet or lifestyle related with obesity can affect somatic cells of the body, but it is becoming clearer that these kinds of exposures can also affect germ cells," Soubry told The Post. "From this knowledge, I can only suggest future fathers to live a healthy lifestyle."

Comments

Owning dogs may be great for your heart and lower risk of death, study finds

Dog ownership correlates with lower rates of mortality and some fatal diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, a study published this past week concluded.The study in the journal Scientific Reports found that canine ownership was associated wit...
Updated: 5 hours ago
New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

Medical researchers and government health policymakers, a cautious lot, normally take pains to keep expectations modest when they’re discussing some new finding or treatment.They warn about studies’ limitations. They point out what isn’t known. They ...
Published: 11/17/17
BayCare’s HealthHub breaks ground behind Valrico shopping center

BayCare’s HealthHub breaks ground behind Valrico shopping center

VALRICO — Health care officials broke ground Thursday on the long anticipated HealthHub at Bloomingdale, which will bring about 150 jobs to an area that’s experiencing tremendous growth and provide patients with the latest in technological care.A pro...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/19/17
In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

Despite the budget cuts, the attempts to repeal and replace, and reports of sharp rises in premiums, Floridians and other Americans are signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at record rates this year.Enrollment has surged 47 p...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Where did I leave my keys?As we age, it can take longer to answer a question like that.Humans begin to lose cognitive ability at age 25. Dementia, or the decline of memory most commonly seen in aging adults, takes hold early on and is gradual, but ac...
Published: 11/16/17
Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

The nation’s heart experts tightened the guidelines for high blood pressure Monday, a change that will sharply increase the number of U.S. adults considered hypertensive in the hope that they, and their doctors, will address the deadly condition earl...
Published: 11/13/17
Are Honey Nut Cheerios healthy? A look inside the box

Are Honey Nut Cheerios healthy? A look inside the box

I had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios recently. It had been awhile. Regular Cheerios are more my thing. But sometimes I finish my box faster than my kids do and find myself straying to their side of the cupboard.Honey Nut is America’s best-selling break...
Published: 11/11/17
Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

The corporate owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg could be facing a serious federal investigation related to its commitment to take care of St. Petersburg’s poorest residents.In its most recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commiss...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/14/17
Father in New Tampa uses monkey Kookabuk to help young autism patients

Father in New Tampa uses monkey Kookabuk to help young autism patients

As a 7-year-old boy, Kevin Howard spent months in the hospital with a bone infection in his leg.A stuffed monkey named Kookabuk helped him make it through the scary experience."I was told he had magical powers," Howard said of the monkey, a gift from...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Learn to practice gratitude year-round, not just on Thanksgiving

Learn to practice gratitude year-round, not just on Thanksgiving

Is it part of your Thanksgiving tradition to go around the dinner table and have everyone share one thing they are thankful for? The exercise reminds us that the day is about more than just turkey and pie. And, for those who take it seriously, it for...
Published: 11/07/17
Updated: 11/10/17