LONDON: Men who pile on junk food may be condemning their future children to diabetes. Prospective fathers should keep an eye on their diet in the same way as mothers-to-be, a new study implies.
The warning comes as Britain fights an epidemic of type 2 diabetes, with two million people already diagnosed and the figure forecast to double by 2025.
A further seven million are on the borderline of the condition, which usually comes on in middle age. It greatly raises the odds of heart disease, stroke and conditions which lead to limb amputation. It can also shorten lifespan by 10 years, reports the Daily Mail.
Much of the increase in incidence has been blamed on expanding waistlines. But the study suggests that at least some of the seeds of destruction could be sown in previous generations, according to the journal Nature.
Australian and American researchers fed young male rats a diet high in fat, mated them with healthy females and tracked the health of their female pups.
These ‘daughters’ developed diabetes before they reached puberty, with blood glucose concentrations double those of young born to other males.
The junk-food rats’ daughters also produced half the amount of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels and is key to the development of diabetes.
Although the experiment included only female pups, it is thought that male offspring would be similarly affected.
It is thought that fatty food caused subtle changes to DNA in the rats’ sperm, causing problems in the metabolism of the next generation.
Margaret Morris, of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, told the journal New Scientist: “If similar effects apply in humans, it underlines the need for men to maintain a healthy diet and body weight.”