Dads who exercise before having children have healthier kids
With so much emphasis on mothers, turns out fathers have to be equally vigilant in their habits.
- A new study shows that a father's exercise program influences the genetic expression of their children.
- Male mice that ate a high-fat diet and exercised had healthier children than sedentary males eating a regular diet.
- This could have important consequences for the health of infants moving forward.
Parental influence on their children happens long before they're even born. We've long known how important a mother's diet is for the health of her baby; we know well the dangers of smoking and drinking. Classical music might not make your child smarter, although music—such as, it turns out, the Village People—does have an effect on fetuses.
While mothers have been under scrutiny for some time, the father's role has been less studied. For example, most of the blame for infertility falls on women, yet nearly half of all couples unable to reproduce are due to problems with men.
Wexner Medical Center physiology and cell biology researcher Kristin Stanford has now provided another important clue about infant health: exercise. In a study recently published in the journal, Diabetes, she says that men who exercise within a month of conception produce healthier babies.
The study featured two groups of mice. One group was fed a high-fat diet for three weeks; the other, a more balanced diet. Each group was split into two: one group remained sedentary, the other had plenty of exercise. After their children were born, the infant mice were given regular diets, but remained sedentary. The result:
The researchers report that adult offspring from sires who exercised had improved glucose metabolism, decreased body weight and a decreased fat mass.
The worse-performing group of children was produced by sedentary fathers on a high-fat diet. Exercise, Standford notes, negated that effect—the combination of exercise and a high-fat diet led to healthier children than sedentary fathers on a regular diet. Movement matters.
Incredibly, exercise changes the genetic expression of their offspring. Laurie Goodyear, who co-led the study, says this could have important consequences on children moving forward.
We're now determining if both parents exercising has even greater effects to improve metabolism and overall health of offspring. If translated to humans, this would be hugely important for the health of the next generation.
Photo: Jude Beck / Unsplash
It's easy to shake our heads at old movies featuring cigarette-smoking mothers—even more so when we see it today—but the influence we have on our children is becoming more important given all the developmental problems occurring due to poor exercise and dietary habits. Early onset diabetes is linked to the microbiome—your genetic expression directly affects your children, and yes, the food you eat matters. Another recent study shows that breastfeeding is not only better for babies, it reduces the risk of various types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis in mothers.
With so much focus on the mother, emerging evidence on the father's role is important. Though the long-standing myth that marijuana use affects fertility rates has been debunked, male obesity, for example, has a profound effect on the health of children. Standford notes,
We know that in adult men obesity impairs testosterone levels, sperm number and motility, and it decreases the number of live births. If we ask someone who's getting ready to have a child to exercise moderately, even for a month before conception, that could have a strong effect on the health of their sperm and the long-term metabolic health of their children.
Of course, the health of parents should be considered for their own sake first, given the rigors they'll have to endure during the first few years of their child's life: lack of sleep, rearranged schedules, a host of lifestyle changes that will challenge them. Yet exercise is never the wrong solution. As it turns out, it plays an essential role in every stage of development, even at the very beginning.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.
Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.
- Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
- The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
- The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Credit: Gunawan/Nature magazine
The number of people with dementia is expected to triple by 2060.
The images and our best computer models don't agree.
A trio of intriguing galaxy clusters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNDA0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTkzNzUyOH0.0IRzkzvKsmPEHV-v1dqM1JIPhgE2W-UHx0COuB0qQnA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d69be" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d2664d9174369e0a06540cb3a3a9079" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The three galaxy clusters imaged for the study
Mapping dark matter<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d904b585c806752f261e1215014691a6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fO0jO_a9uLA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The assumption has been that the greater the lensing effect, the higher the concentration of dark matter.</p><p>As scientists analyzed the clusters' large-scale lensing — the massive arc and elongation visual effects produced by dark matter — they noticed areas of smaller-scale lensing within that larger distortion. The scientists interpret these as concentrations of dark matter within individual galaxies inside the clusters.</p><p>The researchers used spectrographic data from the VLT to determine the mass of these smaller lenses. <a href="https://www.oas.inaf.it/en/user/pietro.bergamini/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pietro Bergamini</a> of the INAF-Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science in Bologna, Italy explains, "The speed of the stars gave us an estimate of each individual galaxy's mass, including the amount of dark matter." The leader of the spectrographic aspect of the study was <a href="http://docente.unife.it/docenti-en/piero.rosati1/curriculum?set_language=en" target="_blank">Piero Rosati</a> of the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy who recalls, "the data from Hubble and the VLT provided excellent synergy. We were able to associate the galaxies with each cluster and estimate their distances." </p><p>This work allowed the team to develop a thoroughly calibrated, high-resolution map of dark matter concentrations throughout the three clusters.</p>
But the models say...<p>However, when the researchers compared their map to the concentrations of dark matter computer models predicted for galaxies bearing the same general characteristics, something was <em>way</em> off. Some small-scale areas of the map had 10 times the amount of lensing — and presumably 10 times the amount of dark matter — than the model predicted.</p><p>"The results of these analyses further demonstrate how observations and numerical simulations go hand in hand," notes one team member, <a href="https://nena12276.wixsite.com/elenarasia" target="_blank">Elena Rasia</a> of the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, Italy. Another, <a href="http://adlibitum.oats.inaf.it/borgani/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Stefano Borgani</a> of the Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy, adds that "with advanced cosmological simulations, we can match the quality of observations analyzed in our paper, permitting detailed comparisons like never before."</p><p>"We have done a lot of testing of the data in this study," Meneghetti says, "and we are sure that this mismatch indicates that some physical ingredient is missing either from the simulations or from our understanding of the nature of dark matter." <a href="https://physics.yale.edu/people/priyamvada-natarajan" target="_blank">Priyamvada Natarajan</a> of Yale University in Connecticut agrees: "There's a feature of the real Universe that we are simply not capturing in our current theoretical models."</p><p>Given that any theory in science lasts only until a better one comes along, Natarajan views the discrepancy as an opportunity, saying, "this could signal a gap in our current understanding of the nature of dark matter and its properties, as these exquisite data have permitted us to probe the detailed distribution of dark matter on the smallest scales."</p><p>At this point, it's unclear exactly what the conflict signifies. Do these smaller areas have unexpectedly high concentrations of dark matter? Or can dark matter, under certain currently unknown conditions, produce a tenfold increase in lensing beyond what we've been expecting, breaking the assumption that more lensing means more dark matter?</p><p>Obviously, the scientific community has barely begun to understand this mystery.</p>
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