Obese male mice father offspring with higher levels of body fat

Male mice who were fed a high-fat diet and became obese were more likely to father offspring who also had higher levels of body fat, a new Ohio University study finds.

The effect was observed primarily in male offspring, despite their consumption of a low-fat diet, scientists reported today at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society in San Francisco, Calif.

"We've identified a number of traits that may affect metabolism and behavior of offspring dependent on the pre-conception diet of the father," said Nowak, an associate professor of in Ohio University's Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine who is lead author on the study.

The researchers point to epigenetics—the way genes are expressed, as opposed to in DNA that are "hard-wired into the genes"—as a possible cause of these inherited traits. Because is impacted by environmental and , this finding suggests that individuals with obese fathers may be able to proactively address health concerns.

The effect of parents' diet and weight on children has been well-established in humans, Nowak explained, but scientists have been studying the issue in mice to learn more about the behind the phenomenon. The Ohio University team studied the impact of the high-fat diet only with male mice parents, as most of the previous research had focused on parents.

To conduct the study, the researchers fed male mice a high-fat diet for 13 weeks before mating. (The female mates were fed a matched low-fat diet.) Male and female offspring were fed a standard low-fat diet and studied at 20 days, six weeks and at six and 12 months.

Compared with offspring from (who were fed the low-fat diet), the male offspring of paternal mice with diet-induced obesity had higher body weight at six weeks of age. They also were more obese at the six- and 12-month study markers. In addition, the male offspring of obese fathers had different patterns of body fat composition—a marker for health and propensity for disease—than the control mice.

The researchers were surprised, however, to find that the offspring of the obese paternal mice also were more physically active. At six weeks, the voluntarily ran more, and their female siblings demonstrated the same behavior at six and 12 months, the scientists report. Nowak's team is studying possible causes for this behavior, which might offset the increased body fat and reduce the offspring's risk of metabolic disease such as diabetes and heart disease.

In the next phase of the research, the team will seek to identify the genes responsible for the physiological and behavioral changes. This, in turn, may inform clinicians about possible epigenetic factors in human obesity.

"Early detection and prediction of risk for obesity, diabetes and related diseases will enable individuals and health care workers to delay or prevent the related disabilities and increase life expectancy," Nowak said. The study was funded by the Ohio University Research Council and the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Related Stories

Cocoa may help fight obesity-related inflammation

Jun 12, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—A few cups of hot cocoa may not only fight off the chill of a winter's day, but they could also help obese people better control inflammation-related diseases, such as diabetes, according to Penn State ...

Recommended for you

Obese children burdened by more than weight

4 hours ago

High blood pressure and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are two emerging health problems related to the epidemic of childhood obesity. In a recent study, researchers at University of California, ...

Nearly 30% of world population is overweight: study

Nov 20, 2014

More than 2.1 billion people globally—or nearly 30 percent of the world's population—are now overweight or obese, with the figure set to rise further by 2030, according to a study published Thursday.

Report: Global obesity costs hits $2 trillion

Nov 20, 2014

The global cost of obesity has risen to $2 trillion annually—nearly as much as smoking or the combined impact of armed violence, war and terrorism, according to a new report released Thursday.

Small cash rewards pay off in weight loss plans

Nov 20, 2014

People who received small cash bonuses for their degree of participation in an Internet weight loss program shed more pounds than those who were not offered bonuses and they kept much of the weight off, according to a new ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

neversaidit
not rated yet Jun 17, 2013
when will they stop mentioning the "high-fat diet"? mice and humans do not have the same nutritional needs. go to wiki and check what's "natural" food for mice. humans are not mice, and it has been shown again and again that's it's not fat in the diet per se, but the kinds of fats and proportions they are consumed in. studies of metabolism clearly show, that carbs are more prone to cause adipose fat gain.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.