Overweight Dad’s Sperm May Influence Offspring’s Weight

Overweight men’s sperm undergo epigenetic changes that may alter a child’s brain development and appetite control. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Just below the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden sits a town called Överkalix. It’s home to only about a thousand people. But those inhabitants were the subjects of a seminal study in human genetics: the research suggested that what our parents, or even grandparents ate—if they grew up during feast or famine—could actually affectour risk of heart disease and diabetes.

“It shows that either caloric restriction or excess of food, can send, depending on the window of your own development, a similar message to the next generation.” Romain Barres, a molecular biologist at the University of Copenhagen.

That trans-generational message is sent, of course, through sperm and eggs. So Barres and his colleagues compared the sperm of 13 lean versus 10 obese men. And they found that the heavyweights had epigenetic changes to their sperm—meaning additional chemical groups on their DNA that affect how genes are expressed. And many of those changes were to sequences known to affect brain development—including genes that regulate appetite. Read More…