Father’s Sweet Tooth Slows Offspring’s Metabolism

We all gain a few pounds after a little indulgence, especially over a gut busting Christmas, but why are some of us affected more than others? New research suggests that your father’s diet could be to blame. Cheers Dad!

A study carried out using fruit flies found that the rate of weight gain in flies that ate a high sugar diet depended on their father’s diet 1. The offspring of fathers that were fed more sugar for as little as two days before mating gained 10-15% more fat than those whose fathers ate normal meals. This meant the dad’s high sugar diet, even over a short period of time, led to increased weight gain in the offspring. Understanding why this happens is of great significance to today’s society where nearly a billion humans worldwide are obese. Amazingly, increased sugar intake appeared to directly affect the structure of the DNA which was passed onto offspring. In a cell’s nucleus, the DNA is wrapped around proteins called histones and these help control how compact or relaxed the DNA is. Higher sugar intake was able to alter chemical markers on the histone proteins changing the DNA structure. Regions that are normally compact in sperm and early embryos became more open, altering the use of genes in these regions. This caused changes to the metabolism of the offspring, leaving the flies more prone to weight gain. Hence, the fly’s actions for only a few days before mating caused the offspring to inherit a slower metabolism.

A group of genes called Su(var), which are involved in DNA structure, were less active and partly to blame for obesity in the offspring. Importantly, Su(var) gene activity is also reduced in obese humans, so inherited change in metabolism may also be possible in people. So yes, if this theory holds true for humans you could have a credible grievance with your Dad. Fortunately, this would only take effect if you ate a high sugar diet in the first place. Looks like there’s no excuse to let the new year’s fitness resolution slide this time. Better hit the gym…

Edited by Debbie Nicol



  1. Öst A, Lempradl A, Casas E, Weigert M, Tiko T, Deniz M, et al. Paternal Diet Defines Offspring Chromatin State and Intergenerational Obesity. Cell. 2014;159(6):1352–64.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.