Fish oil supplements taken by fathers may help fight childhood obesity

A study on mice has uncovered a potential new tool to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity. The research suggests that a simple dietary change, such as fish oil supplementation by fathers, could help reverse this serious health problem.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of obese youth aged 5 to 19 is set to increase from 31 million in 1990 to 160 million in 2022. This extra weight can increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol and may also lead to low self-esteem and depression.

To find out whether a father's diet could affect offspring health, the researchers fed male mice a high-fat diet with or without fish oil added. They found that the offspring of male mice who consumed fish oil had lower body weights and better metabolic health than the offspring of fathers who did not consume fish oil.

While further human studies are needed, this finding opens a new dimension in our understanding of how parents, beyond just genetics, influence the well-being of their children. Fish oil, a readily available and safe supplement, could become a powerful weapon in our fight for a healthy next generation.”

Latha Ramalingam, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Syracuse University

Sarah Delate, a graduate student in Ramalingam's lab, will present her findings at Nutrition 2024, the major annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, held in Chicago from June 29 to July 2.

The researchers say this is the first study to specifically examine inheritance patterns in the paternal lineage. It builds on their previous work, which demonstrated the benefits of fish oil supplementation in mothers for reducing the risk of childhood obesity.

In the new study, which involved about 150 mice, researchers fed male mice a high-fat diet with or without fish oil added. They were then paired with female mice that ate a regular, healthy low-fat diet.

The researchers found that offspring fed a low-fat, healthy diet and fathered by males taking fish oil weighed less at days 7 and 21 than offspring fathered by males not taking fish oil. Female offspring from males taking fish oil also had better metabolic health, measured by glucose clearance and insulin sensitivity.

“This concept offers significant potential to reshape our strategies in tackling childhood obesity,” Ramalingam said. “Imagine a future where dietary guidance before conception is extended not just to mothers, but also to fathers, so that they can play a more active role in promoting their children's well-being from the very beginning.”

The researchers are now studying the possible mechanisms through which dietary changes affect sperm, with the aim of better understanding how this information transfer affects the next generation. They are also investigating muscle and liver gene expression to gain deeper insights into the genetic basis of increased insulin sensitivity in women.

Daylet This research will be presented during the Graduate Student Research Awards Competition on Saturday, June 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. CDT.Presentation Details) and on Sunday, June 30 from 9-9:12 a.m. CDT during the Vitamins & Minerals session at McCormick Place (abstract, Presentation Details,


American Society for Nutrition

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