You know it’s important to develop healthy eating habits before baby comes, but dad’s patterns matter, too, says new research from McGill University in Canada.
Male mice that consumed a folate-deficient diet were 30 percent more likely to have offspring with birth defects, compared to mice that ate a diet rich in folate.
What’s more, overweight mice were also more likely to produce baby mice with defects, even if they consumed enough folate (being overweight can affect the body's ability to process the B vitamin).
We know that the folate you consume is necessary for your developing baby's brain and heart (that's why it's an important prenatal vitamin), but this study shows that a lack of folate in the father’s diet can actually alter the DNA in the sperm, ultimately affecting the development of the fetus. “This is the first study to show that the father’s diet can alter the heritable information in the sperm,” says Sarah Kimmins, PhD, a lead researcher on the study, who expects the results to be similar in humans.
Good news for those trying to conceive: Your man can sidestep the problem with three months of healthy eating. "That’s how long it takes to create new sperm," says Dr. Kimmins. He can reach the recommended amount of folate (0.4mg a day, according to the National Institutes of Health) by eating a combination of these foods:
- 1/2 cup boiled spinach: 33 percent of the daily value
- One serving of a folate-fortified cereal: 25 percent of the daily value
- 1/2 cup rice: 23 percent of the daily value
- 4 spears of asparagus: 22 percent of the daily value
- 1/2 cup boiled Brussels sprouts: 20 percent of the daily value
As for you? Be sure to check out Finding Folate for more ways to get your folate fix. And consider this recent research yet another reason to develop healthy habits as a family. The choices you make together have a lasting impact on your baby-to-be.