A father’s diet can boost his son’s sperm’s ability to outcompete a rival sperm following mating, says a new study published in Biology Letters.
Do males only transmit genetic material to their offspring, as goes the common belief that they don’t contribute anything else, or is there any other effect that they pass on? Biologists from Monash University now have an answer: the diet of men influences their son’s ability to beat a rival sperm at reaching the female egg!
The goal of the new study was to find out whether the nutrition of men generated any effect on their sons. The researchers designed a way to test this by performing experiments on the fruit fly which bears similar traits with human genes. The findings show that, contrary to what is generally thought, males leave a mark on their subsequent generations, even beyond the birth of their offspring.
It was found that adult males who switched to intermediate diet after having been brought up on either low or high protein diets, produced sons who displayed major differences in gene expression—this, in turn, led to differences entailing the “ability to sire offspring”, explained lead author of the study, Dr Susanne Zajitschek.
Dr Zajitschek says that the sperms of the sons coming from high-protein fathers were better at competing with rival sperms: this means that the former sperms had a greater chance at winning the race in the female reproductive tract against sperms from another man.
Sons of high-protein fathers had another advantage: they had enhanced metabolism and reproductive processes.
Another finding relates to the sons of low-protein dads: the genes pertaining to their immune systems were less active.
These findings are the first to document post-mating advantages stemming from the diet of the father. It is also from a small body of research to report trans-generational effects with respect to diet.