Fathers, Watch What You Eat When Trying to Conceive, Too

Last week we learned that what a mom eats when she's pregnant affects her unborn baby. Now a new study is showing that what dads eat before conception matters, too. 

One of the first things you're asked to do when you're pregnant -- and even before -- is to take prenatal vitamins, or folates.  It wasn't thought that dads needed to do much of anything. But now the study has shown that dads need folates, too.

Folates are found in green leafy vegetables, cereals, fruit and meat.  And it's long been known that taking folates, or folic acid, can help women avoid or prevent miscarriage.  But it's only coming to light now how important it is for dads-to-be to consume this, as well.

According to newswise.com, "The study suggests that fathers should pay as much attention to their lifestyle and diet before they set out to conceive a child as mothers do."

And those Big Macs?  You might want to consider cutting them out, too -- if you're concerned about the health and development of your baby, that is.

“Despite the fact that folic acid is now added to a variety of foods, fathers who are eating high-fat, fast food diets or who are obese may not be able to use or metabolize folate in the same way as those with adequate levels of the vitamin,” newswise.com quotes McGill researcher Sarah Kimmins

In some parts of the world, where food is scarce, men may also be at risk for folate deficiency, the Web site reports.  "And we now know that this information will be passed on from the father to the embryo with consequences that may be quite serious," Kimmins tells newswise.com.

"Paternal folate deficiency was associated with an increase in birth defects of various kinds in the offspring, compared to the offspring of mice whose fathers were fed a diet with sufficient folate," newswise.com notes. 

“We were very surprised to see that there was an almost 30 per cent increase in birth defects in the litters sired by fathers whose levels of folates were insufficient,” said Dr. Romain Lambrot, of McGill’s Dept. of Animal Science, one of the researchers who worked on the study. “We saw some pretty severe skeletal abnormalities that included both cranio-facial and spinal deformities.

The study showed that sperm carries a memory of the father’s environment and possibly even of his diet and lifestyle choices.

“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,” said Kimmins.

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