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Dad’s influence on their child’s health

Dad’s influence on their child’s health begins long before they celebrate becoming a father

As dads across the New Zealand prepare to have their fatherhood celebrated this Sunday, the Early Life Nutrition Coalition is reminding all prospective dads of the vital role they play in shaping the long-term health of their offspring.

Research reveals that the health and nutritional status of both parents when they conceive sets in place the building blocks for the long-term health and wellbeing of their children.

ELN Coalition member Associate Professor Clare Wall of Auckland University, says, “There is an abundance of investigational evidence that highlights the role that paternal health at conception plays on the lifelong health of the offspring”.

“At conception, the weight and diet of the father can influence the future metabolic health of the child. While it is universally accepted that a mother’s health and nutritional intake before and during pregnancy influences the health of her child, we now know that a father’s health, weight and lifestyle at conception also plays a vital role,” she adds.

Rates of obesity in men of reproductive age has almost tripled in the past 30 years. Research shows that paternal obesity not only impacts the growth of the offspring but is also linked to serious metabolic disease in future generations.

Metabolic disease is a collection of conditions, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, that occur together and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

“Paternal obesity is linked to an increased risk of metabolic disease, with further research suggesting there is a generational impact – meaning there is an association between a grandfather’s diet and type-2 diabetes in grandsons,” Clare Wall says.

“Men looking to become fathers have a perfect opportunity and motivation to focus on improving their own health and wellbeing, with the added benefit of ensuring their child is given the best opportunity for lifelong health.”

Evidence also suggests that diet/exercise interventions in obese or unhealthy fathers prior to conception may negate some of these potential adverse health impacts in their future child. Therefore, for men considering parenthood, the Early Life Nutrition Coalition recommends changes to diet and lifestyle in the months leading up to conception, including:

• Reducing the consumption of foods high in fat, salt and sugar

• Increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables

• Reducing alcohol consumption and reduce or quit cigarette smoking

• Increasing levels of physical exercise, with a focus on reducing Body Mass Index

“The diet, lifestyle and weight of parents during the period known as The First 1,000 Days are critical in establishing the foundations for the child’s long-term health,” adds Professor Wall.

About the Early Life Nutrition Coalition

The Early Life Nutrition Coalition is a formal sub-committee of the Perinatal Society of Australia & New Zealand and its membership comprises: Australian Diabetes Educators Association; Australian Diabetes Society; Caring and Living as Neighbours; The Children’s Nutrition Research Centre, University of Queensland; Nutricia Early Life Nutrition; Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Society; Dietitians Association of Australia; The Liggins Institute; Menzies Institute for Medical Research; Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Pharmaceutical Society of Australia; United Way Australia; and the University of Auckland.


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