Parents are always advised to eat healthy for better health of their offspring. Certain studies suggest that when parents consume low-protein or high-fat diets, it can lead to metabolic disorders in their offspring when they grow up. Prenatal factors such as stress and improper diet may increase the risk of lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes in children when they reach adulthood. Environmental factors that affect parents may cause reprogramming of the health of their offspring throughout their lifespan. Especially, parental low-protein diets are known to be related to metabolic disorders in their adult offspring.
A new study carried out by team led by Keisuke Yoshida and Shunsuke Ishii at the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research (CPR) set out to find more about the process and has now discovered a key player and the molecular events underlying this phenomenon in mice.
Shunsuke Ishii said, “The most surprising and exciting discovery was that the epigenetic change induced by paternal low protein diet is maintained in mature sperm during spermatogenesis and transmitted to the next generation,”
The researchers found out that a protein called ATF7 is essential for the intergenerational effect. ATF7 is a transcription factor, meaning that it regulates when genes are turned on and off. The findings were published in the journal Molecular Cell.
“We hope that people, especially those who have poor nutrition by choice, will pay more attention to their diet when planning for the next generation. Our results indicate that diets with more protein and less fat are healthier not just for everyone’s own body, but also for sperm and the health of potential children,” Shunsuke Ishii concluded.