Remember that primitive peoples made sure that men (as well as women) consumed special nutrient-dense foods before conception, and science is confirming this practice as well. A study published in Nature Communications (10 December 2013) on mice linked folate deficiencies in the paternal diet to a higher rate of birth defects compared with those whose fathers received adequate folate. The findings raise concerns about dads unknowingly passing on harmful traits through molecular markers on the DNA of their sperm. These epigenetic markers don’t change the genetic information, but rather switch parts of the genome on and off. They are susceptible to environment and diet throughout fetal development, but were thought to be wiped clean before birth. Studies such as this one reveal that some of these markers may survive all the way from sperm to baby. “We should be looking carefully at the way a man is living his life,” said study author Sarah Kimmins. “Environmental exposure is remembered in the developing sperm and transmitted to offspring.” Since it takes human males about three months to produce fully grown sperm from stem cells, Kimmins speculates that men trying to have children should try cleaning up their diets even temporarily. “If a man has been living a bad, unhealthy lifestyle, he will not only improve his own health [by cleaning up his diet] but the health of his offspring,” she said.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2014.