Researchers at Montreal’s McGill University are at it again with their scientific mousecapades. Recently, scientists at McGill gave us the news that fatherless mice turn into a-holes.
Now, researchers are thinking more with their stomachs and reinforcing the notion that dudes planning on having kids should be careful when trying to conceive, as their vitamin B9 “folate” levels have an effect on their sperm. And not the deliciousness factor of the sperm, mind you.
Not that we’re saying it’s delicious. Not that we’re saying that we’re not.
Mothers have been advised to beef-up the folate intake during pregnancy to avoid birth defects and miscarriages, but this is the first time science has advised men to do the same – and for similar reasons. The McGill University paper, which appears in the journal Nature Communications, has a title that says it all: “Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes”.
Researchers took what can only be called a “gang of male mice” and created two groups – one to which they fed a sufficient amount of folate-rich foods, and one to which they restricted folates. Then, those male mice were bred. The findings will shock you…
Okay, they won’t because we’ve already said it like thirty times: the group of mice that did not receive folates produced a higher amount of babies with birth defects. The group of mice that were fed diets high in folates produced fewer mice with birth defects. It’s a lot more technical than that. How technical? Suck on these results straight from the study:
Male inbred C57BL/6 mice received throughout life either the control folate-sufficient (FS) diet (2 mg folic acid per kg) that contained the recommended amount of folate for rodents, or a folate-deficient (FD) diet (0.3 mg folic acid per kg, 14.3% of the recommended amount of folate; Fig. 1a). Dietary exposure began in utero when epigenetic patterning in germ cells begins. Testis and body weights and testis histology were examined from pups at postnatal days (PND) 6, 10, 12, 14 and 18 corresponding to the appearance of spermatogenic cell types. Histological examination of testis at PND 12, when meiotic cells at the leptotene stage first appear, revealed a delay in meiotic onset in FD pups (Fig. 1b,c,d). There were no apparent effects of diet on Sertoli (Supplementary Fig. S1) and Leydig cells (Supplementary Fig. S2). Body weight of male offspring was monitored as a general gauge of health and there was no reduction of body weight in FD males compared with FS males. These findings are consistent with the C57BL/6 mice model, which was on the same FD diet for 12–14 months. Histological examination of adult testes revealed no detectable morphological differences between FS and FD mice (Fig. 1f,g). No effects of diet were observed on spermatogenesis or sperm counts (Fig. 1e). Diet did not alter the weights of the body, testis or epididymides (Supplementary Table S1). Adult FS (n=54) and FD (n=49) males remained on the diets for either 2 or 4 months and were assessed for reproductive fitness by breeding trials and examination of offspring.
That’s the last time you come at us with attitude like we’re holding back information. So, long story short, dudes looking to father children might want to watch their diets and sub in a salad for their daily McRib.
(McDonald’s seasonal pork-themed sandwich, the McRib, long thought to be an aphrodisiac, was not specifically named in the research study. But the McRib, which contains none of the criteria for folates – leafy green vegetables, cereals, fruits or meats – might be a bad move for men looking to father a child in the near future. McDonald’s couldn’t be reached for questioning, but denies using mice in its McRib recipe.)
For more articles about fathers and how their diets effect their children, click here.