Dad’s Exercise Improves Child’s Health


COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Men, listen up!  If you and your partner are thinking about having a baby in the near future, you’re probably getting a lot of advice. And medical experts are adding to the list … researchers say there’s one simple thing you should do now that could improve your child’s health in the future.

Hitting the gym … or pounding the pavement … there’s no shortage of reasons why exercise is a good idea.

But now, men can add one more to the list. New research suggests that doing this may improve the metabolic health of their future children. Scientists at the Ohio State University and Joslin Diabetes Center say there is mounting evidence that dad’s exercise before conception plays a role in a child’s body weight and glucose tolerance. Researchers studied mice and put some on a high-fat diet, while others were on a chow or healthy diet. Half of the mice on high-fat diets were kept sedentary, while others were given access to exercise wheels. After three weeks, they were bred with sedentary female mice.

“The offspring who were from dads who exercised and were fed a high-fat diet had improved metabolic health compared with those fed a high-fat diet,” said Kristin I. Stanford, PhD, Physiologist, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Stanford says in humans, this could mean even moderate exercise by dad could negate a high-fat diet and improve a child’s chances for good metabolic health. So think brisk walking, swimming or mowing the lawn for 150 minutes a week. If you count your daily steps, it’s about three or four thousand steps.

“This is just one intervention that can occur before you’re even born – a benefit you can confer onto your kids that can really protect them later in life,” continued Dr. Stanford.

Stanford and her colleagues say they think some of the improvements are occurring through changes in the sperm. Although they say they will need more research to determine why that’s happening. Earlier studies proved that when mouse mothers exercised their offspring also benefitted. The researchers want to determine the effects on children if both parents exercise.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Kirk Manson, Videographer.

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BACKGROUND: Preconception and pregnancy advice aiming to reduce the risk of pregnancy loss and improve outcomes for the child are largely centered around women’s health behaviors. It’s been known for some time that male and female partners contribute equally to fertility and the success or difficulty getting pregnant. Yet historically, women have unfairly and inaccurately received the brunt of the blame when couples couldn’t conceive. But now, research is looking more closely at the role the man plays in the health of a pregnancy including whether it’s carried to full-term and the child on the way. “When we’re talking about couple-dependent outcomes, like pregnancy or child health, males matter,” says Germaine Buck Louis, a professor of global and community health and dean of the College of Health and Human Services at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Buck Louis says, “Not only in terms of getting and staying pregnant, or the time it takes to get pregnant and ways to prevent pregnancy loss, but in terms of embryonic, or early human, development.”


MALE PREGNANCY SYMPTOMS: Couvade syndrome is a condition where the father-to-be experiences pregnancy symptoms like weight gain, nausea, insomnia and mood swings. It’s actually rather common. In fact, about 90 percent of men experience at least one pregnancy-like symptom, according to CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, M.D. Severe cases of Couvade have been documented, among them a father who experienced abdominal pains when his wife went into labor. The pathology of Couvade syndrome is tougher to nail down. Some believe it’s a psychological issue. Others think Couvade is a physical issue. Expectant dads, worried about the massive impending life change, eat to comfort themselves, or simply eat more because Mom is eating more. Any mood swings could be connected to the weight gain. “When you gain weight, you have more fat tissue, which converts testosterone into estrogen,” explains Michele Hakakha, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN in private practice in Beverly Hills. What’s the cure? “Try exercising together, enjoying a couple’s massage or simply talking to each other and your OB-GYN about it,” Hakakha says. “Women should understand that while he’s not carrying a baby, he’s being sympathetic to you carrying a baby.”


DAD’S DIET = HEALTHY BABY?: Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center link low levels of folic acid with low sperm counts and density. The study in men measured concentrations of folic acid, a type of vitamin B, in the blood and semen of 48 subjects who were 20 to 50 years old. Folic acid is metabolized into different forms in the body. It was the low level of a certain type, the non-methyl form that correlated with low sperm quality, the researchers found. “One of folic acid’s major roles is to participate in DNA synthesis,” says lead author Lynn Wallock, PhD, a nutritionist and an assistant research scientist at the Children’s Hospital of Oakland Research Institute. Men trying to conceive might benefit from the same daily dose of folic acid recommended for women. “Five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day should be adequate to meet folic acid requirements,” says Wallock. Folic acid also may be obtained through supplements, but Wallock recommends improving the overall diet for the other important health benefits it imparts.


* For More Information, Contact:

Kristin Stanford, PhD                                                              Marti Leitch, PR / (614) 293-3737