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Friday, November 21, 2014

Pre-Natal Vitamin for Father Too?

Most people know that females looking to conceive should take a prenatal vitamin that includes folic acid.  I encourage the prenatal vitamin to include a certain type of folic acid called methyl-folate, not just the inactivated folic acid form because some people can’t use the inactivated form.  That’s another discussion though.  What is fascinating is that science is now showing us that the father’s diet may affect fetus development.  A study published in Nature Communications (10 December 2013) on mice linked folate deficiencies in the paternal diet to a higher rate of birth defects compared with those whose fathers received adequate folate.  

The findings raise concerns about dad’s unknowingly passing on harmful traits through molecular markers on their sperm’s DNA.  This is epigenetics.  That is, the genes don’t change but certain molecular parts of the genes that the sperm gives turn off and on.  Study author said that “we should be looking carefully at the way a man is living his life”.  “Environmental exposure is remembered in the developing sperm and transmitted to offspring”.  The take home message is this:  Since it takes human males about three months to produce fully grown sperm from stem cells, Kimmins speculates that men trying to have children should try cleaning up their diets even temporarily.  She states “If a man has been living a bad, unhealthy lifestyle, he will not only improve his own health but the health of his offspring”.  So, while no study to my knowledge shows that all men looking to conceive should start a pre-natal vitamin, it is definitely a good idea to at least clean up the diet and start eating nutrient dense foods.

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