“You Are What Your Father Eats,” According to a New Study

Written by Katherine Martinko

study from McGill University has discovered that a father’s diet prior to conception is just as important as the mother’s when it comes to influencing their child’s health. The study examines vitamin B9, also known as folate, which comes from green leafy vegetables, meats, fruits and cereals, and is known to reduce the likelihood of miscarriage and birth defects. Pregnant mothers must have good folate levels, but this study has shown that a father’s folate level has a big effect on a child’s health, too. Fathers should make sure they have a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle before trying to conceive a child.

Research was conducted using mice. (Editor’s note: Care2 does not endorse animal testing and believes there are viable alternatives to medical research that do not involve the testing or killing of animals.) One group had fathers with insufficient folate in their diets, and the other group had sufficient levels of folate. The offspring whose fathers had insufficient folate had an increased number of birth defects compared to the group with sufficient paternal folate. Dr. Romain Lambrot explained that there was an almost 30 percent increase in birth defects when the fathers had insufficient folate in their diet: “We were very surprised… We saw some pretty severe skeletal abnormalities that included both cranio-facial and spinal deformities.”

The conclusion is that sperm are able to carry a memory of the father’s environment, including his diet and lifestyle choices. This means that if fathers eat high fat, fast food diets or are obese, or if they live in an area of the world with food insecurity where it’s hard to get enough folate in their diets, or if they drink excessively or smoke, all of that information gets passed on to their offspring. Lead researcher, Sarah Kimmins, says:

“Fathers need to think about what they put in their mouths, what they smoke and what they drink and remember they are caretakers of generations to come.”

Her next step will be to collaborate with fertility clinics in hopes of better understanding the links between paternal diet, obesity and the health of offspring.

I think this is a wonderful and fascinating discovery. Shifting the balance of responsibility for prenatal health so that it’s shared equally between a mother and father will be a big help for women, who already bear the full burden of pregnancy and delivery. Encouraging men to establish healthy lifestyle habits also sets a good example for children once they’re older. Such a discovery is beneficial to the whole family.

This post was originally published in TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: John Lemieux


Kathy Johnson
Kathy Johnson2 years ago

makes perfect sense. Wish people would stop poisoning their own bodies

Sharon Perry
sharon L Perry3 years ago


Sharon Perry
sharon L Perry3 years ago

Our cells are renewing themselves all the time.. Eat good foods, not your parents ..

Sharon Perry
sharon L Perry3 years ago

You are what you eat..lol. Don't follow parents eating habits.. reverse the habits

Carole L.
Carole L3 years ago

Dale O
“Will fathers eating tons of lettuce soon be blamed for introverts because many introverts have been known to say.. 'Let us alone!'”

LOLLOLLOL that's funny!!!

james rico
james rico3 years ago

also there offspring were much more healther too

james rico
james rico3 years ago

this makes sence look at the pottengers cats study the cats eating the raw foods were heathyer than ones eating cooked foods this study was skewed and downgraded by wikapedia which is controlled by big pharma

Emilie G.
Emilie G3 years ago

Sarah Kimmins was my professor of anatomy and physiology at McGill. Nutrition and genetics are greatly related. Your genes determine how you react to food and food affect your genes and the genes that you pass on to your kids.

Julie vanberkel
Julie vanberkel3 years ago

My father was born in Italy in 1921, to a very poor family. Whatever food there was available his father got the best and his younger brother got the next best as he was asthmatic. Then it was the turn of his mother and finally him and his 2 sisters.He was soon last on the list when his sisters got to puberty, and it was felt they needed to build up their strength. My mother also came last in her family, and often ate candles to quell the hunger pains. As she suffered morning sickness with me through-out her pregnancy - I didn't stand much of a chance, did I...?!

Annemarie Sens
Past Member 3 years ago

Thank you.